MENTAL ILLNESS can refer to several afflictions that affect the state of our minds, but usually the first one we think of is depression. While clinical depression can be caused by many individual factors (or a combination of several), there are some medical conditions that put a person at greater risk for the disease.
Thyroid conditions — for both an overactive and underactive thyroid — is one such example. Another example would be diseases or conditions that affect the brain, such as a stroke, a brain tumor, multiple sclerosis, or severe trauma. Along those same lines, other degenerative diseases that typically affect our seniors can especially pose a risk for depression. Some of these kinds of illnesses are Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s disease.
The latest numbers from Healthy Tampa Bay show that 16.9 percent of the Medicare population in Polk County is afflicted with depression. Unfortunately, the numbers in other areas of the region don’t get better: 17.6 percent of Hernando County’s Medicare population is depressed; 18.1 percent in Hillsborough County; and 19.1 percent in Pasco County are afflicted.
These are just the diagnosed cases, and only in Medicare patients. For as many cases that are diagnosed, treated, and helped, if there is only one person whose condition falls below the radar of detection, then it can pose a great risk to his or her life as the disease worsens. Some warning signs or symptoms of depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, might include the following:
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Feelings of worthlessness, and/or helplessness
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- Overeating or appetite loss
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
If you suspect that your loved one might be suffering from depression, do not hesitate to bring it up with your family’s doctor. Your physician can direct you to the right channels so your family member gets the proper care and treatment to help him or her improve, and ideally make a full recovery from the grasp of mental illness. As you read the articles in this edition, you’ll find resources to help you reach out for help and make educated decisions about the best course of treatment with your medical provider.
column by NELSON KIRKLAND
Nelson Kirkland is publisher of Central Florida Health News. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.