The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) describes the signs and symptoms of depression as:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood.
- Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism.
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness.
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities.
- Decreased energy or fatigue.
- Moving or talking more slowly.
These features of deep unhappiness affect a person’s ability to function until any aspect of life is simply a crisis for them. Some severely depressed people cannot eat or manage their hygiene on their own initiative. The depressed person might withdraw from social interactions, too. Extreme depression has an additional cause for concern to the sufferer and to everyone involved with them because the depressed individual might try to harm or kill themselves. The harm can include self-mutilation, risk-taking and other dangerous behaviors designed to ruin their aspirations, reputations and more.
As the Mayo Clinic’s website indicates, these are multiple causes for depression. The MedlinePlus site indicates that Persistent Depressive Disorder is a mental health issue of its own. So is Atypical Depression. Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, which affects children and adolescents, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) in females, are dangerous realities, not myths or rumors.
The scope of depression, its severity and causes, is too big to warrant dismissive “Get over it,” and “It’s a matter of willpower,” attitudes. Depressed people are not in control of various chemical processes in their bodies nor of some of their specific circumstances. They require compassionate, competent help to get past the depressive state.
Treating extreme depression is a most serious matter, not an issue of standby medical prescriptions. The Journal of the American Medical Association recently published research findings regarding the difficulty of figuring out which medications help severely depressed people. An innovative solution was learned during the research process. It is being shared with medical plus mental health professionals.
Emergencies happen and they can’t be scheduled for anyone’s convenience. If things seem out of control or potentially deadly, you need to call 911 or another local emergency number immediately. If warranted, and that is a judgement call up to the observer, contact the depressed person’s doctors or any accessible mental health professional. Hotlines are available via the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). If the suicidal person is a veteran of the US military, use that same number and press “1” to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.
Crises tend to be messy and frightening. The resources you or the person needs and wants might not be available even if they should be. Ask close friends and loved ones, even spiritual clergy for help. Such people have proven to be lifesavers in many instances.
It cannot be emphasized enough: If you have a loved one or an acquaintance who is in danger of suicide or has made a suicide attempt, make sure someone stays with that person. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Or, if you think you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.