Seeking Professional Help for Depression

Deborah Gray Health Guide
  • I loved my grandfather dearly. He was a gentle, shy man with a quiet sense of humor. I still miss him, even though he died almost twenty years ago. He had one quirk, however, that did make my mother's childhood difficult at times. He firmly believed that when you were ill, you just had to soldier on. When my mother was sick, she would leave the house as though she were going to school, but wait around the corner till he had gone to work, then go back home to be tucked into bed and fussed over by the housekeeper, and my grandmother if she wasn't working.


    I sometimes think of my grandfather when I do a search for books about depression online. Among the books about depression and mental health that I have read and frequently refer to, I see the others, the ones that make me groan and want to bang my head against my monitor.

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    According to their philosophy, you are supposed to deal with your depression using everything except professional help. You should use coach yourself, take the zen path, be mindful, be spiritual, take vitamins, etc., etc.


    Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with these approaches, except for the belief that many of them share that you should be handling your depression yourself. I'm guessing that no small percentage of people with depression who resist seeking medical help believe that depression treatment automatically means medication, and are sure that all of the doctors are in the pocket of big pharmaceutical companies. But I think that there's something else at work here, the same belief of my grandfather's that led to my mother having to hide till he had left for work so that he'd think she was going to go to school when she was ill.


    My grandfather had a tough childhood. He dropped out of school in eighth grade to support his family after his father died. After he and my grandmother were married and the Depression hit, he worked long, late hours in a flower stall in Grand Central Station and pinched pennies to survive. Maybe he didn't want my mother to give in to adversity in the form of illness so that she would be able to survive greater challenges down the road. But it was wholly unnecessary, and not terribly wise, to try to force her to keep going when she was ill.


    I also feel it's not terribly wise for people to diagnose and treat their own depression without the aid or knowledge of a doctor. Diagnosing your own depression is a very bad idea. Some clinical depression is caused by an underlying condition, such as a malfunctioning thyroid. The first thing any (good) doctor will do in the diagnosis process is check for these underlying conditions. If your depression is due to another medical condition and you never see a doctor, obviously the primary condition is not going to be diagnosed, and it could be life-threatening.


    And really, what do we have to prove? Why do many people feel that getting professional help for depression is wrong, shameful or weak? Why are you supposed to suck it up and stand on your own against this disease?


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    Get professional help for your depression diagnosis and treatment. Going it alone, or with the advice of someone whose main goal is making the bestseller list, is potentially dangerous and certainly unnecessary.

Published On: June 08, 2011