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Feature Article Recognizing the signs of depression leads to life-saving help

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You may know CPR or the Heimlich maneuver. You know how to call 911 for help in an emergency. But do you know how to recognize when someone you know is suffering from depression, or how to get help? “Many people don’t realize they are depressed. They just think life is hard,” said Caroline Fisher, MD, chief of child psychiatry at Samaritan Health Services. “They don’t realize that depression is making the hard things in life so much harder. Depression is a very treatable illness, but if you don’t address it, little problems seem huge and big problems seem insurmountable.”

The most common mental illness — clinical depression — affects more than 19 million Americans every year. Fortunately, recognizing its signs and then seeking help could help save the life of a co-worker, friend or family member.

The following symptoms may indicate depression, especially if they last more than two weeks:

  • A decrease in performance at work or school
  • Withdrawal from friends, family or social activities
  • Lack of enthusiasm, energy or motivation
  • Overreaction to criticism
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feelings of guilt, anger or rage
  • Indecision, lack of concentration or forgetfulness
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
Signs of depression can vary based on the type of underlying mental illness, age or personal situation, but depression can affect anyone, at any stage of life.

“Fewer than half of people suffering from depression seek treatment, but depression should never be a normal part of life,” said Fisher. “Thinking about suicide, especially. Our brains are designed to keep us alive. If you don’t want to be alive, it means that something isn’t working right.”

Caroline Fisher, MD, sees patients at Samaritan Mental Health Family Center in Corvallis. She may be reached at 541-768-4620.