When the darkness descends

Guest column

It exists for millions of people in a shadowless world where sunlight is seldom revealed, where happiness and love are but hollow words only to be read or heard and rarely felt, where hope has once stood only to be swept away by endless despair, where it reveals its darkness not for a day or months but for endless months or years.

This is but an infinitesimal description of how a person feels with major depression. According to Mental Health America, “major depression” is one of the most common mental illnesses affecting 6.7 percent — more than 16 million — of the adult American population each year. Some of the symptoms include persistent sadness, sleeping too much or too little, loss of appetite, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, thoughts of death and suicide, and more.

Sixty years ago, there was little treatment for severe depression. Many underwent shock treatments to alleviate their suffering. Today, however, through the advancement of medicine, there has been a development of a plethora of new medications. This, coupled with new approaches to treatment such as counseling, etc., independent or in combination with medications have alleviated suffering for a number of people. For many, this provides a great light (hope) into a darkened world.

Severe depression is devastating to the individual but equally devastating to those loved ones around them. I know, because I personally have experienced that with my mother (as far back as I can remember). I can still recall vividly even today, trying as a 5-year old to encourage my mother to get out of bed. Eventually over the years it took its toll and she attempted suicide. I found her that morning, never forgetting that strange sound coming from her. You see, at that time 50-plus years ago, there was not the knowledge or treatment that they have today. Even today, I am dealing with depression in other family members.

If you have a friend, loved one or relative who has suffered with one or more of the aforementioned symptoms — and there are others as well — seek professional help for them; they may not have the ability to initiate this on their own. Taking care of those who are suffering is what He would want you to do.

As mentioned before, the effects of severe depression affect not only the individual, but also family and friends. If it is affecting you or others, seek a support system or professional help. I, for one, am thankful for my relationship with God, family, and friends. God has always been there with me even in those darkest times and only recently has given me the answer to my question of suffering.

My family and friends, just by being there for me, whether in conversation or gatherings, you will never know the light that you have brought into my life; you have enhanced my ability to cope. Thanks goes out to Ron Kevin, Spel, Gary, Tom, numerous classmates, and countless more friends.

This article is a precursor to my next feature article, focusing on community mental health issues.

Daniel J. Paul is a retired school administrator. His articles focus on education, old-fashioned family values, relationships, and other topics. His website is at meaningfuldifferences.net.

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