Addressing Depression in the Modern Era

(Image Courtesy of the Forest Grove News-Times)

(Image Courtesy of the Forest Grove News-Times)

Amelie Verlinden, Resources Editor

Content Warning: This article contains mentions of eating disorders, depression and suicide. Please proceed cautiously. If you or someone you love is struggling, there are resources at the bottom of this article.

Throughout the last decade, the rates of teen suicide have risen almost explosively, with suicide becoming one of the top killers of teenagers alongside motor accidents and injuries. However, despite the mass of information on depression and suicide being taught both in schools and throughout the general public, one of the most common things friends and family say after a close one commits suicide is that they never expected it. So why is it that if the warning signs of suicide are so common, many loved ones never see it coming? The answer to this lies not in the warning signs of suicide itself, but in the cause behind suicides.

While the more common signs of depression such as a lack of interest in activities and mood swings are often spoken of, there are many physical indicators of a depressive episode. Depression can cause physical pain, such as headaches or body pains, and can cause strong changes in appetite. Eating disorders are often linked to depression, particularly in women, (Mayo Clinic: “Depression in women: Understanding the gender gap”), and can result in binge eating or anorexia. Both insomnia and extreme fatigue are also common symptoms of depression, which can result in trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much. These symptoms are a result of depression because while depression is classified as a mental illness, studies have shown that depression alters the brain’s structure due to increased and long-term exposure to the hormone cortisol, with the prefrontal cortex (which regulates memory and emotion) appearing to shrink (Healthline: “The Effects of Depression on the Brain”). With differing areas of the brain reacting to the increased amount of one specific hormone, the nerve cells and their ability to grow are affected, and the body becomes imbalanced. Due to these imbalances, a person who is suffering from depression may also have difficulty recalling memories or concentrating. 

Depression is a complex disorder and has multiple different ways that it can manifest in someone’s life. Postpartum depression, clinical depression, episodes of depression, and manic depression all have different causes. However, there are some symptoms of depression that often appear in all cases of depression, regardless of the cause. Irritability, mood swings, and feelings of hopelessness are often feelings that occur with depression. These feelings of hopelessness may sometimes lead to suicide, with most attempts being triggered by the individual feeling as though nothing will improve. Many individuals report feeling as though they are a burden, which can often stop them from reaching out or asking for help.

Despite the common depression-based belief that nothing can improve, depression is very treatable. Both medication and different types of therapy have been shown to improve the quality of life for individuals with depression, allowing those individuals to adjust their mindset, behaviors, and core beliefs. According to Help Guide’s article, “Depression Treatment,” three of the most common therapy methods are interpersonal therapy, behavioral therapy, and psychodynamic therapy. Behavioral therapy addresses unwanted patterns or behaviors, particularly in children, and directs the promotion of unwanted behaviors into the promotion of desirable behaviors. Interpersonal therapy, on the other hand, is focused on personal relationships and how to resolve issues surrounding personal relationships such as an inability to set boundaries or communicate. Lastly, psychodynamic therapy is used to address the individual’s subconscious. Psychodynamic therapy dives into the individual’s subconscious to find and address subconscious beliefs or emotions the individual may hold and is the top method of therapy to address depression. In certain situations, medication may be sought out to help address depression, but medications should not be relied on solely as a form of treatment. Acupuncture is also a form of treatment that is physical-based and can be applied to other issues such as insomnia or physical pains. However, no matter what form of treatment is chosen, depression cannot be cured in a day; treatment often takes patience and time, as well as determination and commitment. 

Unfortunately, depression also cannot be cured simply by doctor-issued treatment. Lifestyle changes are often necessary to assist in treatment (Help Guide). These changes can come in the form of increased exercise, more sleep, better nutrition, and social interaction. Social interaction in particular is extremely important when treating depression; the more isolated a depressed individual is, the deeper their depression is likely to get. That being said, better exercise and nutrition are not off the table. Taking a walk a day and incorporating more fruits and vegetables into a diet may be small steps to healthy individuals, but they can mean strides for someone struggling with depression. Attempting to keep up good hygiene can also help, such as clean clothing every day and using deodorant if taking a shower proves to be too difficult. People with extreme depression can often struggle with getting out of bed or taking a shower, so those small steps in hygiene and health can go a long way in managing depression. 

Mental health may come with a stigma attached in society, but it is important that both suicide and depression are discussed openly and without shame. The U.S suicide rate across the board has gone up 24% in the last decade, and that means that reaching out and having those difficult conversations is more necessary than ever. Depression can affect any demographic, including men, women, and non-binary people. If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, reach out to them. Be sure that the people you love are safe, because depression can kill, and 2020 has been an incredibly difficult year for everyone. 


The Trevor Project for LGBTQ+ youth:1-866-488-7386(24/7 hotline)

The National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

The Crisis Text Line, for anyone who’s struggling: text HOME to 741741

The Need2Text Line, 24/7 for teens: 741-741