As a practicing psychologist, if I share only one piece of information with service members who experience depression, it is: Treatment works.
October is Depression Screening Awareness Month, but depression is an important issue all year. We know that depression is prevalent. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, major depressive disorder is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States, and women are nearly twice as likely as men to experience depression.
As director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE), I want to get the word out that depression is treatable. It is important to note that even the most serious cases of depression can be treated – and the sooner the treatment begins, the better. Patients have many options for treatments that work including psychotherapy – such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and mindfulness – and a number of medications.
In an environment where obtaining mental health care can feel intimidating, it is important that we make the resources available to those in need. It is also important to educate all levels of leadership about depression and other mental health concerns. I want all of our military leaders to know that there shouldn’t be stigma associated with getting care. Psychotherapy and medication work. We have the tools and experts to deliver both, and mental health care in a military setting is always delivered on par with every other type of medical care.
Another important reason to treat depression is the fact that it can be tied to other illnesses. It is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in populations. Sick folks are often depressed. Depressed folks are often sick.
A vital part of the mission of DCoE is to get the resources into the hands of service members, family members and providers when they need them. The first step to getting help is to know the signs. The signs of depression include:
- a persistent sad mood
- inability to have fun
- irritability (especially in children)
- problems with energy, sleep, appetite and concentration
- suicidal thoughts or actions are never normal and always a cause for concern. Suicidality requires medical intervention.
If you have these symptoms yourself or see these signs in a loved one, get help.
Over the past few weeks, as the leading office for the Defense Department in advancing excellence in psychological health and traumatic brain injury prevention and care, we’ve highlighted several depression screening tools and resources on the DCoE website, DCoE Blog and social media channels. For more resources, from our centers and partner organizations, please see the list below:
- Afterdeployment offers free depression screening. A self-assessment is not only easy, it can be your first step toward getting the help you need.
- The Real Warriors Campaign has many articles on how to manage depression. The Real Warriors Campaign encourages help-seeking behavior among service members, veterans and military families.
- The National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is dedicated to research and education on trauma and PTSD. The center works to ensure the latest research findings help those exposed to trauma. This organization has resources and tools for those living with PTSD.
- The T2 Mood Tracker App allows users to monitor and track emotional health.
Service members in crisis should seek help immediately by going to the nearest emergency room, or contacting the Military Crisis Line. Dial 800-273-8255 (press 1 for military) for 24/7 crisis support. The crisis line provides a confidential chat and text service (838255). Family members and friends of service members or veterans can also use the Military Crisis Line to reach immediate help.