We’ve all got that one girlfriend who just gets on our last nerve! You know – the one with her own personal rain cloud who is perpetually down in the dumps. The one that makes you feel like screaming, “Girl, will you PUH-LEASE get it together?!” Yes, some of our girlfriends need an attitude adjustment. But sometimes there’s more going on than meets the eye.
According to the National Association of Mental Illness or NAMI (www.nami.org), 17-20 million Americans are affected by clinical depression annually. And both misdiagnosis and under-treatment are common among people of color – especially African Americans. It’s estimated that only 12% of African Americans seek treatment.
Although those statistics are frightening, they’re not surprising. In many of our communities, women who seem to have “the blues” are viewed as weak and unable to cope with life. So many of us just suck it up and keep it moving. A dangerous move since major depression can last for years and even lead to suicide.
So what is clinical depression? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, this common, but highly treatable medical condition is marked with the following symptoms:
• Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
• Fatigue and decreased energy
• Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
• Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
• Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
• Irritability, restlessness
• Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
• Overeating or appetite loss
• Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
• Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
• Thoughts of suicide and/or suicide attempts
While studies show that Caucasians experience depression more often, African American and Caribbean women experience greater severity and persistence.
But there’s lots of good news. Thanks to public education campaigns we now know more about this condition and it’s lost much of its stigma. And more importantly, clinical depression is highly treatable with treatment covered by most medical plans. In fact, the NAMI says that 80-90% of people that receive treatment are able to return to their regular activities and feelings. So if that girlfriend of yours doesn’t seem to be shaking the blues, instead of telling her to get her act together, look at little deeper. If she has the signs of clinical depression, be a good friend and help her get the medical attention she deserves.
MommyNoire friends, have you or your friends suffered from depression? How did you get help?
Words By: Yolanda Darville