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Today is World Health Day (WHD). Each year, healthcare professionals and communities around the world partner with the World Health Organization (WHO) to bring awareness to a global health crisis. What’s WHD’s focus this year? Depression.

Depression- let’s talk.

More than 300 million people around the world are affected with depression every year. Common mental disorders (like depression and anxiety) are increasing worldwide. Between 1990 and 2013, the number of people globally suffering from depression and/or anxiety increased by nearly 50%. Close to 20% of the world’s population is affected by one or both of these conditions. Lack of treatment for mental disorders has a high economic cost- new evidence from a study led by WHO shows that depression and anxiety disorders alone cost more than a trillion dollars’ worth of economic loss every year.

In many countries, there is no, or very little, support available for people with mental health disorders. Even in high-income countries, nearly 50% of people with depression don’t get treatment. Depression can lead to self-inflicted injury and to suicide- it’s now the world’s second leading cause of death among 15-29-year olds. In 2015, over 78% of global suicides occurred in low- and middle-income countries.

Untreated depression prevents people from life- most common mental health disorders can be prevented and treated, at relatively low cost. Although there are known, effective treatments for depression, fewer than half of those affected in the world (in many countries, fewer than 10%) receive such treatments. Barriers to effective care include a lack of resources, lack of trained health-care providers, and social stigma associated with mental disorders. Another barrier to effective care is inaccurate assessment. In countries of all income levels, people who are depressed are often not correctly diagnosed, and others who do not have the disorder are too often misdiagnosed and prescribed antidepressants.

Depression can be prevented and treated. A better understanding of what depression is and how it can be prevented and treated will help reduce the stigma associated with the condition and lead to more people seeking help. Those who are close to me know that I’m passionate about decreasing mental health’s stigma and am open with talking about my own depression. Sure, it’s a tough and often awkward thing to talk about in causal conversation but it needs to be addressed.

Why not make today the day that you, dear reader, learn more about this disease? Be the person who isn’t afraid to talk honestly about their feelings and experiences with depression, anxiety, bipolar, etc. Share your story. Listen to a friend. The only way that the stigma is going to get away. This is the only way that people who desperately need help are going to get it. Your small step forward is the first of many in this fight. Let’s push forward and make some change.


Anxiety Girl

Anxiety girl (this is me)!

Anxiety girl (this is me)!

1:32am. I’m sitting on my living room couch, trying to differentiate the sounds of the white noise outside from the buzzing inside my brain. It’s another sleepless night with my anxiety, another night that I am unfortunately used to.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults in the United States (about 18% of U.S. population). Women are twice as likely to be affected as men. I am one  of those women. I have always had some sort of anxiety. Through out my life, it comes and goes in great waves, with certain times of the year being more concerning than others.

My anxiety causes me to stay up nights and lose much focus and motivation during the daylight hours. I spend hours and hours analyzing every single thing in my life and in the world around me. Every other month or so, I have an anxiety attack. The last one I had, two weeks ago, stemmed from a whole slew of things (responsibilities at work; my schedule with school and the upcoming holidays; distance I’ve been experiencing with certain friends; the 15 pounds I gained over the summer; my low bank account; upcoming events like the Reno SlutWalk and my high school reunion, etc.). These worries left me feeling paralyzed. I needed to get up for work but I couldn’t move my body. I felt so stuck and cried for a good 10 minutes before I managed to drag my body into the shower. A week later, I had another when I woke up with herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1) on my left eyelid (which I get when extremely stressed), that left me more anxious. I had a weekend of fun things planned but instead, since the virus festers and spreads when I get any sunlight, I canceled my plans and stayed inside… which left me feeling more upset and uneasy, lonely and disgusted with myself. It’s the never-ending cycle with this one…

I sometimes think about the kind of person I would be if I didn’t have my anxiety. I think about how I would have longer hair, as I pull out my hair during tense moments (or even moments of boredom or a mental fog). I don’t think I would binge on food and use sweets and salty treats to subdue my emotions and negativity thinking (here’s looking at you, tummy and hip stretch marks). But I do what I can. I watch ASMR videos on YouTube that help me sleep throughout the night. I recently bought a gym membership and I push myself HARD; so hard that most of my muscles throb with pain by the time I leave. That pain leaves me feeling accomplished and let me focus through out the day on becoming mentally strong and building muscles (even though I can barely make it up the stairs). I go back and forth about going on medication (this week, I’m thinking about going on it). But above all else, I remember to be gentle with myself- I let myself go through the motions, dive deep in my problems and swim on through to the other side, ending up “Life isn’t that Bad” Bay. I dry myself off and start smiling again.

If you, dear reader, suffer from anxiety, especially in the way I do, my heart goes out to you. I hope that you can find the tools to heal and just know that you are not alone.