Patients says treatment is key to living with depression

Patients, professionals say treatment is key to living with depression

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"When I have bouts with depression, I kind of hide. I become a recluse. I crawl in my hole and pull the top end over me," Rita McNabb said. "When I have bouts with depression, I kind of hide. I become a recluse. I crawl in my hole and pull the top end over me," Rita McNabb said.
"Symptoms of mental illness start early, typically 50% by age 14, 75% by age 24," said Ben Harrington with the East Tennessee Mental Health Association. "Symptoms of mental illness start early, typically 50% by age 14, 75% by age 24," said Ben Harrington with the East Tennessee Mental Health Association.

By DON DARE
6 On Your Side Consumer Investigator

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Depression is an illness that affects more people than you think.

Mental illness is not a sign of weakness, and more importantly, it's treatable.

When someone has depression, it's more than feeling sad. It's an intense feeling of sadness and other symptoms.

Depression can make you feel utterly alone, but it doesn't have to be that way.

Rita McNabb lives with the illness, which few people talked about a generation ago.

No longer does she allow the stresses in her life to interfere with her job as director of coordinated health with the Cocke County school system.

McNabb said the illness snuck up on her 14 years ago, while she was the primary care giver for her grandmother.

"When I have bouts with depression, I kind of hide. I become a recluse. I crawl in my hole and pull the top end over me," she said.

Common symptoms of depression are fatigue and exhaustion; you don't have energy for everyday tasks.

Patients also have problems with sleep - they have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.

There are also headaches and digestive problems. Our brains and digestive system are closely related.

"Symptoms of mental illness start early, typically 50% by age 14, 75% by age 24," said Ben Harrington with the East Tennessee Mental Health Association.

Harrington, the executive director of East Tennessee Mental Health Association, said there is a gap between symptoms and diagnosis.

"The thing we have to understand is the average age of diagnosis of depression is 32 years of age," he said.

"In most cases, there is a chemical imbalance. It's not any difference than people with heart disease or high blood pressure. Medication is a needed thing," McNabb said.
 
Medicines are a key treatment for depression. A health care provider can choose from dozens of effective anti-depressants

McNabb found that her faith and talking with a trained counseling were also effective treatments.

In her position with Cocke County Schools, McNabb encourages teachers to be on the lookout for signs of depression in their kids.

"Any changes in behavior. If a child is normally quiet, then starts acting out or vice versa. If a child who acts out becomes very quiet, if their grades start to change," she said.

Clinical depression goes well beyond temporarily feeling sad or blue. It affects ones thoughts, feelings and behavior.

Seeking help and getting an accurate diagnosis is important.

"You can live a normal functioning life. Yes, some days are better than others, that's just life. But there is life after depression," McNabb said.

With depression becoming one of the nation's most costly illnesses, many companies offer workplace employee assistance programs where people can get help.  

For more information about finding treatment, visit the Mental Health Association of East Tennessee's website.

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