(Editor’s note: This story is the first part of a multi-part series “Mind Wars,” examining the struggles of the mental illness, depression, that begins in Issue #7 and concludes in Issue #12. Several staff members took it upon themselves to interview, take photographs and conduct research. The results of their combined efforts follow.)
Depression is not something to be taken lightly.
Depression is a mental illness, and many people don’t see it as so.
According to the website healthline, depression is a condition that reportedly affects one in 10 Americans at one point or another.
Dr. Lynne Cleavinger, director of Health and Wellness at South Plains College, explains that SPC has health professionals who work with students who think they have depression, or if they’re suffering from depression.
“There is a specific criteria to have a certain diagnosis that you have to have,” Dr. Cleavinger says. “To me, the specific diagnosis isn’t the important part about it. Because if a person is feeling really depressed and having symptoms, they don’t have to have a diagnosis to come here. They can come work with one of the mental health professionals to determine what kind of things we need to do to help them.”
According to healthline, more than 80 percent of the people who have symptoms of clinical depression are not receiving any specific treatment for depression. Also, the number of patients diagnosed with depression increases by approximately 20 percent per year.
Christy Oden, a licensed professional counselor in Lubbock, explains that depression includes sadness, and the circumstances and intensity of it are extremely high.
“Depression is a mental health disorder, and it’s classified as a mood disorder, because it impacts our mood,” explains Oden. “You can’t switch off depression. Let’s say that somebody got some bad news, and they’re sad and a friend tries to cheer them up and it works. With depression, it isn’t going to fix the situation. The people that I work with can’t find a trigger that causes their depression.”
Each counselor follows specific criteria that determine if someone is depressed.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals in the United States. It contains a listing of diagnostic criteria for every psychiatric disorder recognized by the U.S. healthcare system.
“DSM 5, which is the short version,” Oden says. “It is an outline that clearly sets criteria and helps us make a clear diagnosis and separates sadness and depression. Losing interest in something for two weeks is a sign they are depressed, or if they lose interest in other things that they enjoy. They tend to withdraw and not engage in activities. Appetite increases or decreases, trouble with sleeping, or loss of energy. The students are unable to concentrate in class or do work. The memory can be impacted. What usually happens is they are sociable impacted in some state or form.”
According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), major depressive disorder affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older, in a given year.
While major depressive disorder can develop at any age, the median age at onset is 32, according to DBSA.
“The [criteria] is the onset if your depression happens at an earlier age, then it may be more severe when you grow up,” Oden explains. “The manual also talks about a genetic component in depression. It would help if the person has depression, they should talk to their families and not just their parents. The medications that work for one family tends to work for the person.”
According to the psychcentral website, the biggest issue regarding relapse has to do with children and adults not following through on their treatment plan.
“There are statistics that show that if someone gets medication, that helps, and statistics show that people who get therapy helps as well,” Oden says. “Now, if you combine the two together, that is when you will get the best outcome. The medications do what I can’t do. I can’t change their biological makeup.”
Dr. Cleavinger explains that at SPC, sometimes people choose to do the talk therapy and combination of medication.
“We work and ask the student what feels best for them, and the student makes the decision,” Dr. Cleavinger says. “The student is in control of their problem, and we don’t want to pressure them into doing things they don’t want to do.”
If anyone is seeking help, there are many licensed counselors who are willing to listen.
“Depression is a mental illness that should be taken seriously, because it could end somebody’s life,” according to Oden.