Depression: How Can We Be Helpers?

by Roger Whittler, LPC, Missouri Lawyers’ Assistance Program clinician

Depression has been described as a profound sadness and inability to experience pleasure.

We can all be helpers if we understand that depression symptoms rarely manifest as clearly as they are written on paper. People who are suffering from depression often do not realize they have depression. When I tell clients, “You have depression,” after a long pause, their response is one of surprise. I get it. What they are saying does not sound like depression to them because lawyers are so familiar with phrases like:

  • Having problems concentrating.
  • Cannot do anything right.
  • Feeling overwhelmed.
  • Fatigued, too much work and little time for leisure.

The good news is depression is treatable and working with a mental health professional has proven to be very effective. Communication-focused, cognitive behavioral, rational emotive behavioral, and interpersonal behavioral approaches are all useful and effective interventions. If you are concerned, consider if the subtle examples noted above might be part of something more.

Some of the most common symptoms of depression are:

  • Depressed or low mood.
  • Disturbance of appetite.
  • Disturbance of sleep.
  • Loss of pleasure.
  • Fatigue.
  • Irritable.
  • Feelings of worthlessness.
  • Poor concentration.
  • Indecision.
  • Thoughts of death or suicide.

One professional association task force studying depression found that at least 7 million women and 3.5 million men in the United States could be diagnosed with major depression, according to Wayne Dixon’s “Problem-Solving Appraisal and Depression: Evidence for Recovery Model” article in the Journal of Counseling and Development. It is estimated) that 1 in 4 adults in the United States will experience symptoms of depression over his or her lifetime, according to G. Gintner’s article “Diagnosis and Treatment of Adult Depressive Disorders” in The Mental Health Desk Reference. The Missouri Lawyers’ Assistance Program annual report for 2020 indicates 29% of all new clients reported depression as the reason they reached out to MOLAP.  

We can all be helpers if we understand that depression is so common that it is almost universally experienced. If you notice a friend, colleague, or family member having ongoing problems, listen carefully to and acknowledge the problems in an accepting way. Then ask yourself, are they depressed? If so, it is a common problem, and you should not react with alarm, surprise, or otherwise stigmatize the condition. Calm and relaxed attention, along with support, is necessary. If the condition persists, encourage the individual to seek additional assistance.

If you have questions about depression or wish to set up a confidential screening, call the Missouri Lawyers’ Assistance Program at 1-800-688-7859.