By Gregory Burnett
Depression can be dark and lonely. Some describe it as being caged — thrust into a place where no one really knows, or understands, the twists and turns your mind is taking.
Daily routines like climbing out of bed, preparing for work, and driving yourself seem as monumental a task as preparing for major heart surgery.
The pandemic has caused trauma for many families and individuals. The staggering number of deaths we’ve seen daily, coupled with very high job loss numbers and social isolation, has placed many in an emotional state they’ve never encountered.
According to the National Mental Health Institute in a recent survey, around 17.3 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode. This number represented 7.1% of all U.S. adults.
The American Psychiatric Association has published a book that explains the diagnostic criteria for each type of mental illness. In most cases, to be considered a serious disorder, the person must display a cluster of symptoms, with these symptoms causing the person a high level of distress and/or interfering with the person’s ability to function at work or home.
Our society tends to attach stigmas to those with mental illness, and that judgment often keeps people from seeking help.
Dr. James C. Overholser, Professor of Psychology and Director of Psychology Clinic at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland says help is just a phone call away.
“I think it comes down to the person making the first phone call when they discover they need help,” says Overholser. “It’s admitting to yourself that you can benefit from help, and sharing personal details with a stranger. I think stigma plays a role. But a lot of time we are conditioned to figure things out on our own, go to an online service or hear from friends and family members to ‘toughen up and deal with it.’ When public figures, like Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love, who recently admitted struggling with anxiety and depression, come forward and speak about their issues it’s inspirational and helpful.”
Sadly, some sufferers give up the fight. According to NMHI, during a 20-year period, the total suicide rate in the United States increased by 35% from 10.5 per 100,000 in 1999, to 14.2 per 100,000 in 2018.
Jordyn Dunlap, 25, a news anchor at WSYX/WTTE/ABC6 in Columbus and the author of “Abide. Arise. Ascend.” is not surprised by that number. She almost became part of that statistic in 2016.
“I grew up in a Christian home,” says Dunlap. On her web page, she writes, “I began a relationship at age 15 that continued until age 21 when I didn’t want to live. That suicide attempt stemmed from deeply-rooted insecurities, relationship trauma, self-hatred, and identity confusion. Thankfully, God used this traumatic experience to alter the entire trajectory of my life, and I identify that experience as unforgettable. My deliverance from mental illness came while institutionalized at a psychiatric hospital. I survived to tell my truth to help someone else.” Dunlap’s book can be purchased at Amazon.com.
Parents of middle and high school students worry about the long-term effects of kids losing connection to the school community. A recent story in the New York Times found that 3,300 high school students reported feeling unhappy or depressed in recent months.
“Parents shouldn’t stress too much yet,” says Overholser. “We still do not understand the long-term effects of COVID-19 or the impact of nonmedical aspects of the pandemic such as the lockdown. Most likely, the psychological and social impact of the pandemic will derive from each person’s baseline personality, coping style, and their social and financial resources.”
Overholser recalled a memorable quote on depression from author William Styron. ‘The mood disorder may descend seemingly out of the blue, or it may come on the heels of a defeat or personal loss, producing persistent feelings of sadness, worthlessness, hopelessness, helplessness, pessimism, or guilt.”
Below is a list of support groups put on by various organizations. Due to the pandemic, meetings are virtual:
The Depression and Bipolar Wellness Alliance Cleveland:
Meetings are through Zoom every Tuesday and Friday from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
The average group size is between 8-15 people. Free and open discussion.
Dbwacleveland.org, or call 216-971-2869.
A twice-monthly support group for family, caregivers and friends
Peer Support Group sessions: