It’s Time to Really Talk About Depression
Several strategies can help prevent a downward spiral — they all start with reaching out
This is the second in a four-part series on preventing depression, a serious and growing mental disorder that can strike at any age and, if untreated, persist and worsen.
Rainy days often get me down. Even a little overcast can put me into a funk. Sometimes I just get moody for no good reason. That’s all normal. But when feelings of sadness persist day after day, any of us — me, you, a family member, or a friend — runs the risk of plunging into debilitating depression. There is no immunity. There are, however, effective prevention strategies.
“There is ample evidence that depression can be prevented,” says Tracy Gladstone, PhD, a senior research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women. “People who participate in prevention programs have about a 20% decrease in the incidence of depression, relative to similar people who get a control (nonactive) intervention.”
You don’t have to wait for depression to derail your life before seeking help. In fact, the sooner you reach out, the better, several experts tell me.
“People do not need a diagnosis of depression to benefit from depression interventions, and, in fact, there is ample evidence to suggest it is possible to prevent depression in people with depressive symptoms but no clinical diagnosis,” says Gladstone, who leads Wellesley’s depression-prevention research.
When to seek help
Depression is far more common than you might realize. The number of U.S. adults with depression symptoms tripled during the pandemic and remains staggeringly high — around 28%. Nearly half of parents say depression symptoms among teens, already rising in recent years, worsened during the pandemic.
Genetics can be a significant driver, particularly in the case of severe depression. But in most cases, depression is at least 50% determined by environment, lifestyle, and events. At least one traumatic event — early in life or later on — typically acts as a trigger that can, if left untreated, initiate a downward spiral.