Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

December 2011 Wellness Tip

Dealing with Depression

How is your day going?  If you “just don’t feel like yourself,” and you haven't for a while, you may be experiencing signs of depression. 

Depression is a real medical condition. It causes a person to feel sad and hopeless much of the time. It is different from normal feelings of sadness, grief or low energy. Depression is believed to be associated with changes in levels of chemicals in the brains, such as serotonin and norepinephrine. A person can have depression one time or many times. The good news is that there are effective treatments that can help one enjoy life again. The sooner treatment begins, the sooner a person will feel better.

According to over 100,000 Highmark members who took the Highmark Wellness Profile in 2010, nearly 21% reported experiencing some degree of depression.  Nationwide, it is estimated that 1 out of 10 adults in the United States reports depression according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It often runs in families, but can also happen to someone who doesn’t have a family history. It affects men and women of all ages (most often between ages 45-64), races and economic levels. Women experience depression twice as often as men. People who have a serious illness are more likely to have depression. Depression can even adversely affect the course and outcome of common chronic conditions, such as arthritis, asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity.

Depression can cause different symptoms in different people, and they may be hard to notice at first. People who are depressed may:

· Have little interest or pleasure in doing things.

· Feel down, depressed or hopeless.

· Have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep or sleeping too much.

· Feel tired or have little energy.

· Have a poor appetite or overeat.

· Feel bad about themselves; or feel that they are a failure and let their friends/family down.

· Have trouble concentrating on things, such as reading the newspaper or watching television.

· Move or speak so slowly that other people notice. Or, the opposite: being so fidgety or restless with more movements than usual.

All of these symptoms can affect everyday life at work and home. If you suspect you or a loved one may have depression or have experienced symptoms for at least two weeks, talk to your doctor. Don’t wait to get help. Even though there are effective treatments for depression, some experts suggest that people often wait over 10 years to seek treatment on average. But there is hope. If more people seek treatment earlier, the impact to the individual, family members and those around them can be reversed.

How Can You Get (or Give) Support?

Sometimes it’s difficult for friends, family and co-workers to understand what it’s like to experience depression. Depression goes beyond “feeling blue,” and people can’t just “snap out of it.” Describe your symptoms and experiences with depression with your family and friends. (Or, ask them to share their thoughts with you, if you’re the support person.) A good support person can help by:

· Providing emotional support and being a good listener.

· Encouraging ongoing treatment, including medication adherence, when appropriate.

· Going along to doctor and counselor appointments.

· Helping to monitor progress and provide support to stay on treatment.

· Learning about and helping to carry out recommendations for lifestyle changes.

· Encouraging participation in activities, social gatherings and hobbies that once brought pleasure.

Highmark resources that can help:

Talk with a behavioral health specialist who can help locate resources, discuss treatment options and help family members. Highmark members should call 1-800-258-9808 and choose Option 3. Or, call the toll-free number on the back of the Highmark Member ID card for more information.

Enroll in an online health program. Go to the Member website at, and follow the instructions to log in. Click the “Your Health” tab, and select “Improve Your Health” to participate in an online program for depression under “Manage a Health Condition.”

Call Blues On Call at 1-888-BLUE(2583)-428 anytime 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for confidential support from a specially-trained Health Coach. Highmark Health Coaches have access to a variety of health guides, educational materials and videos.

*From "Healthy Highlights" health topic monthly mailing, Highmark Blue Shield

Cindi Dinger, on behalf of the Wellness Committee