Published on October 10, 2018

Understanding Depression: How to Cope, How to Help


By F. Carl Mueller, MD, Associate Chair of Psychiatry, Stamford Health

Depressed man clutching head in handsHigh-profile, celebrity suicides have unfortunately become a common occurance in society today. One thing these celebrities have in common is that they likely suffer from depression up against the public image they put forward. When the news break, and in the days that follow, the public is shocked. People envision this fantasy life in a social media run world in which they compare themselves to celebrities who seemingly have it all. But that’s usually more perception than reality, which is why tragic news like can have such a hard-hitting effect on the general public.

Depression is a a common disorder that involves many factors. In fact, one in five people in their lifetime suffer from a depressive episode that can last anywhere between a month to five years. Simply put, those who are depressed and contemplate or attempt suicide are looking for a way to escape their pain. They don’t see any other way out.

We're here to help.

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Southwest CT offers support groups every 3rd Wednesday of the month from 6:15-7:45pm in Stamford Hospital's Warner Building (conference room across from SouthOne Psych Unit). For more information, contact Lorraine at lorrainezegibe@gmail.com or 203-858-1477.

People who are depressed are also not very resilient. They cannot usually bounce back easily from difficulties – but is it possible to teach resilience? As a clinician, I say it most certainly is. We can bring about greater resilience by engaging in connections with friends and family members, participating in groups and activities, even focusing more on hobbies that can make us see the world outside of our own problems. Practicing healthy habits in nutrition and exercise is also a good start.

Myself, I love gardening and the art of Bonsai. Growing Bonsai trees gives you full control over shaping and styling techniques. I am making changes now that I won’t see for 5-10 years. Things like this give us hope and excitement for the future, to see our changes come to fruition.

So, in the wake of these very public suicides, what can we do as a community? The focus of our efforts – beyond helping those we know who are in pain – must be to break the depression stigma. Depression is a disorder like any other, and it can be treated. It is not a defect, nor is it a sign of weakness to ask for help. We as a community need to diminish prejudice and let those who suffer from depression know that they are not alone.

The more we talk about depression, the more we can help those suffering from it. So that instead of making them feel more isolated, we bring them into the fold. Depression affects some 350 million people worldwide and it’s not going away. If we know a friend or loved one is in this kind of pain, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Talking helps and it could ultimately save a life.