Striving to be More Aware

By Joan Watkins


During a recent phone conversation with my Dad he brought up the fact that each time he goes to the doctor they ask him five or more questions related to depression. He was curious about why, as was I, and since I inherited my inquisitive and studious nature from my Dad, I began to read on the topic of depression among senior adults.

“Studies by the Center of Disease Control estimate that 7 million American adults over the age of 65 experience depression each year.”* Depression is not simply sadness or a day or two of the blues. All of us have seasons when we are not as happy as other times. However, many adults do not necessarily feel sadness when they are depressed, although it can certainly be a symptom. Sleep disturbances, feelings of hopelessness, loss of interest in friends or activities and staying indoors to oneself for long periods of time may also be symptoms.

“True depression isn’t the same as occasional periods of feeling down. The questions mental health professionals ask when screening for depression try to determine how many symptoms of depression you have, how long you have had them, and how much they interfere with your ability to live life normally.” **

I have a neighbor that has recently gotten help to overcome depression. Honestly, I didn’t know that he was depressed until he suddenly was outside more and speaking from across the street. The marked difference in his interactions alerted me that he was free from depression, free to engage. My heart was grieved that I had missed it. I had allowed my fear of being intrusive to keep me from asking questions. Thankfully my neighbor has attentive family that helped him return to a healthier mental state.

Determining if our loved one is depressed is a great first step. Most primary care physicians are equipped to treat mild or moderate depression. That is certainly a great place to begin. But if symptoms linger, do not hesitate to see a mental health professional. We are doing better as a nation to break the stigma of mental health issues, but we have a long way to go. Our parents and grandparents are less likely to be comfortable with the topic as they may still hold to the antiquated messages regarding mental health.

With kindness and directness, we can share these truths with our loved one if they are resistant to see a mental health professional. The brain is an organ and every organ of our bodies can become ill. We have our blood checked to gain an understanding of what’s going inside our veins. If our heart is skipping beats, we see a cardiologist. If we have a broken bone, we see an orthopedist. If we have a tooth ache, we see a dentist. When we have symptoms of depression, we can see a mental health professional. It is absolutely healthy and wise to seek help when any part of our body is ill.

Thankfully, my Dad is not battling depression. But if he does show signs of depression, or if I do, we have set the stage for open and honest communication. I am now better equipped if the occasion arises and I am striving to be more aware.



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