Clinical depression is an illness that is so good at targeting its victim that many times it convinces everyone around you that you are happy and healthy. This makes it an invisible illness, making healing a lonely and frustrating process. My personal story is not an uncommon one. My family and I immigrated to United States from a communist country, and started a new life. This meant obstacles and some hardships, putting mental health at the bottom of the priority list. Depression was not a word we used to describe the way we felt, and therapy was not an option as it would be too expensive and shameful. Besides, therapy and depression were a made up problem or a luxury, not a real life problem. The problem with that is that my depression was very real, and because it was never addressed during my childhood, the healing fell on my adult shoulders. As an adult, it was up to me to figure out what I was feeling and eventually realizing, and admitting to myself, that I needed help from medical professionals. I am not alone. Many go about their lives living with depression, without getting the help they need. We have an epidemic on our hands, and it is not the one you think. Since 2019 nearly 50 million, or 19.86% of American adults, experienced a mental illness. Out of those adults, 24.7% report an unmet need for treatment. This number has not declined since 2011. Youth is especially vulnerable and would benefit from proper treatment, but according to the Mental Health America report, over 60% of youth with major depression do not receive any mental health treatment. There are number of factors as to why that is. Whether it is an insurance problem, homelessness, stigma or lack of education and resources, the fact remains that self-advocacy is a must. The burden falls on the individual, because society and community still looks at mental health as a secondary need. The problem with advocating for ourselves, while dealing with a mental illness, also means that it often gets neglected. It can be hard to take care of ourselves and get daily tasks done, making a bigger picture of healing a daunting task. This can be true even for those who are highly functioning. Even as an adult who is in therapy I feel I often have to dig up my own research and ask a lot of questions before I find out about treatments available to me. We know the conversation around mental health needs to change, but whose responsibility is it to change it? Collectively we can all start to make a difference. Let’s talk about mental health and let’s talk about it openly and often.
Knowledge is power! A good place to start is knowing what questions to ask, and what treatments might be available to you.
Questions that you should ask your doctor
What is my diagnosis?
What are the medical terms for what is happening to me?
Have them show you an image of the brain and explain your illness. This is especially important if you are going to take medication.
What is the most successful treatment available?
What is the average length of treatment for this type of illness?
Types Of Treatments to Ask Your Doctor About
EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is my personal favorite treatment because it incorporates the mind and the body. The right professional can assess whether you are ready for this type of treatment. The treatment involves a few steps, including following a ball with your eyes. This treatment is excellent for anyone looking to heal from trauma. While it can be very triggering, it is also one of the most effective ways to get to the core of your traumatic memories and start healing. It should be done in-person and with guidance of a professional who can teach you how to process your memories and go to a calm place afterwards. EMDR therapy proves that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma as much as the body can recover from physical trauma.
CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a psychological treatment that involves verbal and written exercises. This type of therapy is meant to help you with your thinking pattern. It often times puts emphasis on turning the patient into the therapist so they can help themselves. This therapy is widely used and can be beneficial to anyone who suffers with depression, anxiety, an eating disorder, substance abuse, and more. In clinical settings it is often done in a group setting, or you are given a take-home booklet and can start learning on your own.
DBT or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is more involved than CBT. Besides helping you change your thinking and behavior, DBT helps you accept and love yourself. This makes it a good option for anyone looking for help with depression, self-harm, borderline personality disorder, and more. There is evidence that DBT can be useful in treating mood disorders, suicidal ideation, and for help you change behavioral patterns.
Systematic Desensitization Therapy can be extremely beneficial for anyone who suffers with an anxiety disorder, OCD, PTSD or a phobia. Your therapist will teach you how to relax your body through relaxation and breathing exercises. Then you work through your fears through visualization and exposure. This therapy aims to remove the fear response of a phobia, and substitute it with a relaxation response.
Always consult with a board-certified doctor, or a professional that is licensed.