Dear Ann Landers: Last year at this time, I was reading the paper, and your column jumped out at me. You said there was help for depression.
I had been feeling miserable. A relationship had just ended, and my job was boring. I had no energy. I wanted to go to sleep and never wake up. I knew I couldn't "leave" because I was a single mother of an 11-year-old boy and had responsibilities. I struggled through each day, tired and unhappy. Worst of all, I wasn't giving my son the time he deserved because it took so much energy to just stay mobile.
Then I saw your column, and I decided to call the toll-free number. I was given the phone number of a screening site, went to the location, completed the questionnaire, and talked to a mental health clinician. I was a nervous wreck, but once I got there, I felt comfortable and began to believe there was hope.
That was last October. Today, after continuing in treatment, I am feeling much better. My son has noticed a tremendous difference, and I am approaching the world with a more positive outlook. The sadness, hopelessness and darkness I was feeling has lifted, and I can now deal with the normal ups and downs of life.
I urge anyone who is feeling the way I did to take advantage of National Depression Screening Day. It changed my life, Ann, and your column was the key. Thank you for letting your readers know about this program.
- Christie in Missouri
Dear Christie: This is the 10th year of the National Depression Screening Day program. This year's screening will be on Thursday, Oct. 5.
One in five women and one in 10 men will get depression over the course of their lifetimes. Heart attack survivors and those with congestive heart failure who also have depression have a significantly greater chance of dying within six months than those who do not have depression. Common symptoms include sadness, hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness. People with depression experience difficulty sleeping and changes in appetite. Sufferers no longer derive pleasure in activities that were once enjoyable, and may have difficulty concentrating and making decisions. Some people have vague medical complaints such as aches and pains that persist. Depression may also be characterized by thoughts of death and suicide.
Here's the good news. Depression is treatable, and more than 80 percent of people with depression do improve with treatment. Screenings are free and anonymous. Those who may be experiencing symptoms of depression, or know someone who is, should call the toll-free number that has been set up especially for my readers. It is (800) 242-2211; TTY for the hearing impaired: (800) 855-2880. These numbers are available starting today, and you will be given the location of the screening site in your area.
Screening participants will hear an educational presentation and have the opportunity to take an anonymous, written screening test, pick up educational brochures, and meet individually with a clinician for a brief screening interview. Anyone who appears to have symptoms of depression will be directed to a treatment facility in his or her area.
If you see yourself in today's column, don't fail to follow through. It could make a huge difference in your life. If you have a friend or loved one who you believe may be depressed, please do whatever is in your power to get that person to a screening site. It could be the greatest gift you will ever give.
Problems? Dump on Ann. Write her at The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.