COVID-19 can lead some people to feel depressed. The news of the people sick and dying is everywhere. The inability to see or even to touch a loved one and the fear for the safety of loved ones continues to be a part of this new life challenge.
Depression is a serious mood disorder. It is more than feeling down, sad, or blue. There is often a substantial loss of interest in life. Depression can have severe symptoms that affect daily activities and affect how one thinks and feels. Depression can cause people to be unable to eat, sleep, or enjoy life. Major depression can cause suicidal thoughts and actions. Depression is a common problem among older adults, but it is not a normal part of aging.23 It is a severe illness that needs diagnosis and treatment.
Signs of depression
Many symptoms of depression are similar to symptoms of stress, such as changes in thoughts, behavior, sleep, and eating more or less. However, there are several distinct differences between stress and depression. Depression includes persistent sad or empty moods, moving or talking slowly, and thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts. Chronic stress and depression have similarities and can have severe health effects, but depression has also been linked to long-term brain changes and cognitive decline. Both should be recognized and treated to help someone move toward optimal emotional wellness.
Depression can and should be treated. Treating depression can reduce pain, improve outlook, increase energy, and can improve other co-existing illnesses. Typical types of treatment include prescription medications, psychotherapy, light and sun therapy, Vitamin D, and enhanced wellness routines. Exercise, laughter, and meaningful relationships are powerful anti-depressants effective for all people. Natural products such as St. John's wort and Omega- 3 fatty acids are showing signs of being effective treatments for depression.27,28 Untreated depression reduces the quality of life. It can lead to an early death by suicide.
Stop and think. Do you have ways to identify people who are suffering from depression? Do you collaborate with your medical team to build a wellness program to reduce depression for residents and staff? Are there ways for you to change the environment so you can expose people to more sunlight? Do you have support groups? What activities can you implement during this pandemic, so you can help people avoid the feeling of despair or hopelessness?