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When I first started this blog I had intended for the focus to be on the “Baby Boomer” generation since I just barely slide into that category…All heck, …ok, I’m a baby…”baby Boomer” …ok? Much to my surprise I was chastised by non-boomers (some young folk friends of mine) that the LiFeTrain should be for everyone, i.e. people of all ages. For the most part I have tried to stick to that maxim.
Today however, I would like to focus the microscope on those of us who are aging and the possible signs of depression. But first, I am not a doctor nor a psychologist. As a matter of fact I am not the most intelligent of lads. However, as I have said in the past, I know smart people, I read, think and have opinions (that I like to share here on the train).
Now, on to this week’s topic as part of Mental Health Awareness week. [Depression] is not a normal part of aging, although many older people and their caregivers think the two go hand in hand. As we age, we might encounter many familiar sources of depression, including losing loved ones and facing health problems. Still, depression can and should be treated in people of ALL ages.
I recently read that about 15% of adults over age 65 have significant depressive symptoms, and about 3% have major depression. Note, the risk of suicide increases with age: The National Institute of Mental Health reports that older Americans are disproportionately likely to die by suicide, and that white men over age 85 have the highest suicide rates in the United States. Two studies further underscore why older people with even minor depressive symptoms need treatment: One, published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, found that older adults with signs of depression had diminished immune responses, which may affect their ability to fight off infections or disease. Another, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, found that more depressive symptoms in older adults meant more limitations on daily activity and a greater need for care. People with no depressive symptoms received three hours a week of care on average, those with one to three depressive symptoms had about four hours of care a week, and those with four to eight depressive symptoms needed six hours of care a week.
As we age, so are our parents, grand-parents, aunts, uncles…you get the thread. Keep an eye on them. Check in on them and while you are at it…Check in on you! None of us are super-humans.
Checking in on you…This is what I mean. All over the world, depression is much more common in women than in men. In the United States, the ratio is two to one, and depression is the main cause of disability in women. One out of eight women will have an episode of major depression at some time in her life. Women also have higher rates of seasonal affective disorder, depressive symptoms in bipolar disorder, and dysthymia.
Why are women so disproportionately affected? Many theories have been advanced to explain this difference. Some experts (and myself) believe that depression is underreported in men. But of course there certainly other, more complex reasons for womenâ€™s greater vulnerability to depression.
Before I close out this part of our focus. Just let me close by explaining why I chose such an unpleasant topic this week. Let’s admit it – emotions can be hard to talk about for everyone. The best I can convey is because it [depression] is real, depression is very real. I have seen the effects on many folks close to me. I’ve seen it manifest it self through drug abuse, alcohol abuse, food addiction and if I can keep it real here…even sexual addiction. And as much as I hate to admit it…well refer back to part I for my disclaimer.
Some people can find it “uncomfortable” to be around a person who is upset. It embarrasses them because they don’t know what to say, or do, or how to help. It can even be hard to hear or accept “I Love You” for some people and they barely acknowledge you have said it. Lots of us are just not emotionally confident and even our own feelings make us sometime feel uncomfortable.
So how are we going to react to or help a son or daughter, sibling, or parent (or ourselves) with depression…? Simple actually, very simple. Don’t be embarrassed, …”GET HELP”.
Don’t die of embarrassment, guilt or shame. Listen, biology isn’t personal. Biology isn’t our fault. Our biochemistry isn’t a character flaw or personal weakness.
There is no shame in having diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s ALS, EMS, MS, Alzheimer’s, appendicitis, or being hit by car !!
As passengers here on the train we must learn this, know this & believe this:
Depression is truly an innocent, shameless, blameless, physical disorder that makes you believe that something is wrong with YOU instead of your biochemistry. It is not a mystery anymore. When I was a child growing up we didn’t even utter the word. Most men I know just drank the pain away. It isn’t your fault. It could simply just be a physical disorder, imbalance or deficiency.
The more we know and learn about our own biochemistry, the more often we will be able to see ourselves as separate from ourselves a split second at a time. Think about it…
All Aboard! The LiFeTrain!