Family & EducationLifestyle & Wellness

Feeling down? You are not alone and we can get help

West End Healthline

Feeling down? You are not alone and we can get help

by Jared Madsen, MD
“I just don’t see the point in going on. I used to live for my kids, now I don’t know what to live for.” A patient of mine told me he had considered taking his own life. Fortunately, a friend came along at the right moment, and he chose a different path. Up until this week, his mental health had not been a significant topic of conversation as we had been focusing on managing his blood pressure and asthma. We spent previous visits talking about the importance of taking his medications and inhalers every day as prescribed. After this conversation, however, the focus shifted to his mental health due to his courage to speak up, and we decided to start an antidepressant and therapy. We continue to work together and make adjustments to his plan as needed to keep his depression under control.
The World Health Organization estimates that 280 million people have depression, making it the leading cause of disability worldwide. Depression affects us locally as well. In 2020, 719 Minnesotans died by suicide. Although depression is common, there is still some stigma attached to mental illness. It can be seen by some as a sign of weakness to seek help. I like to tell my patients that depression is an illness just like any other medical condition. Let’s use asthma as an example. When my patients use daily inhalers consistently and check in regularly, asthma remains under good control.
However, when inhalers are not used or forgotten, asthma flares up and can result in emergency room visits. Sometimes, despite taking inhalers, asthma can still flare up, but we can usually regain control quickly when early warning signs are reported. Depression is similar as it tends to be under good control when getting therapy and taking appropriate medication, but there can still be times when it worsens. Working closely with a family physician and mental health professionals can help decrease the impact of these flare-ups. In addition, depression, like asthma, can affect anyone. Each person has unique reasons for why they are depressed, and it is important to recognize the warning signs. Symptoms of depression include Depressed mood; Decreased interest in things you normally enjoy; Guilt or feelings of worthlessness; Decreased energy; Difficulty concentrating; Changes in appetite or weight; and Suicidal thoughts. 
If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, reach out for help. The good news is that we can help depression get better! Most people see improvement with therapy or medications or both. Adjusting diet, physical activity, and alcohol and drug intake can all make a difference as well. 
You are not alone. The first step is reaching out for help. This could be to a family member, friend, or doctor. 
    Your safety is important. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call National Suicide Prevention Line at 800-273-8255.

Jared Madsen, MD is a family medicine doctor at Allina Health United Family Physicians, 233 Grand Ave, St. Paul, MN 55102. Phone number 651-241-5200

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