Signs of depression can vary, advocate says

One of our two stories bringing awareness to mental health #BellLetsTalk


FALL RIVER: The signs and symptoms of mental health issues come in many different shapes and sizes. No one knows that better than Jim Malone.

Malone, a driven sales worker, saw all that come to an end in 2007 when he had to take a leave from his employment after being diagnosed with depression. Admitting it only came after, as he described it, “the last straw” a phone call from an HR representative at his employer.

She called after some fellow co-workers of Malone became concerned as the normally happy-go-lucky, chipper Fall River resident’s behaviour had changed.

“I went through my younger life and always thought there was something different about myself compared to my friends,” said Malone. “I never could put my finger on it. It wasn’t enough of a difference to make a huge difference.

“It turned out I had had some form of depression most of my life.”

He said in 1989 is when he was first diagnosed with major depression.

“From 1989 until 2007 I continued to work, I didn’t lose any work because of it,” he said. “I was able to go through that period, not feeling the greatest, but manageable. That’s the period when I got married and my kids were born.

“In 2007, that’s when I was contacted. She asked me. I couldn’t answer. I bawled my eyes out. It was like the last straw.”

She came down right away, said Malone, and helped him get some paperwork done. He went off on short-term disability, something he was reluctant to do, but looking back realized it was the right thing. Short-term disability became long-term shortly after.

“There were lots of signs,” said Malone. “I knew something was really bad happening. Again, that’s that stigma. Not knowing the right time to say something because you’re always hoping it’s going to get better.

“Deep down I probably knew this was bigger than anything I had experienced.”

Malone explained what people should watch for if they suspect someone has depression or mental illness

“If people change in many different ways, if they isolate themselves more,” said Malone. “If they don’t hangout around people like they used to, if they go to their bedroom or a private place in their house and they don’t want to participate in meal time or conversations, it can be a sign that there’s something just not right.

“It could be something else, like bullying.”

He said a sign a person could be depressed is if they are sleeping too much or not enough.

“When they eat too much “comfort” food or not at all, and negative kind of comments,” he said. “At the worst of it, there could be talk of self-harm and suicide.

Malone said suicide used to be a no-no term that people hardly used it, but nowadays when they talk about it we have to use it.

“It’s real and it’s out there,” he said. “In mental health, we always say that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

“That saying alone has helped many people. They never looked at it as a temporary problem. When you’re really depressed, you don’t look at it that way.”

He has facilitated a peer support group for the last 12 years for people with depression and anxiety, two “bedfellows”, that go hand-in-hand. The support group meets every Tuesday night at the Community Mental Office in the Bayers Road Shopping Centre in Halifax. It runs from 7-9 p.m. Everyone is welcome.

Bell Let’s Talk Day is on Jan. 25. Every time you talk, text and join in on social media on January 25, Bell will donate 5¢ more to mental health initiatives.

Among the 10 things people should know about depression include, according to Danny Baker, author of I Will Not Kill Myself, Olivia.

1. You can’t just “be happy” or “get over it.”

Most people who suffer from depression have had someone say the above to them at some point in time. Depression doesn’t work that way.

2. It’s a real illness

Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain-a deficiency of either serotonin, dopamine, adrenalin or noradrenalin. Just because it’s an invisible illness doesn’t mean it’s not real.

3. People with depression are not attention seekers

There are exceptions to nearly every rule, but the vast majority of people with depression are most certainly not attention seekers. If they were, then why are those with depression famous for saying “I’m fine” when they feel miserable? The truth is that most people with depression hide their pain- often out of fear of being judged or discriminated against.

4. Depression is very, very common

A lot of people think depression is rare, but the truth is according to the World Health Organization depression affects 350 million people worldwide, and as many as 10 per cent of adults in the Western World.

5. Anyone can fall victim to depression

Depression doesn’t discriminate. No matter your gender, age, sexuality, colour or creed, you’re at risk of falling victim.

6. People with depression can still be very high functioning

Just because someone suffers from depression, it doesn’t mean they’re incompetent or unable to function. There were countless successful people who have suffered from depression including J.K. Rowling, Angelina Jolie, and Mark Twain to name a dew.

7. People with depression are sick- not crazy

Mental illnesses are like physical illnesses – you treat them and get better. A person with a mental illness is no more crazy than a person with a physical illness.

8. If someone with depression has a “good day” it doesn’t mean that they no longer have depression

People with depression can have “good” days where they don’t feel depressed – indeed, they can have days where they even feel happy. But it’s a mistake to think because they feel good one day, that they’re no longer sick. Depression doesn’t work like that.

9. People with depression are not necessarily “negative” or “ungrateful”

Just because a person suffers from depression, it doesn’t mean that they’re negative or ungrateful. Again, depression is an illness, and it can happen to anyone.

10. Suffering from depression is much more than just having a bad day or feeling temporarily sad

A bad is just that – a bad day – and sadness is a temporary emotion, Clinical depression on the other hand can make you feel utterly miserable – not just for one day, but for weeks, months, or even years on end. When used in its clinical sense, depression describes a debilitating, gut-wrenching illness.