Dr. Gena Vennikandom, a regular columnist for the magazine Chicago Health offers up her view point as to why depression can still be seen as the elephant in the room. Why does it still not get the attention it deserves, and why is it so misunderstood?  Dr. Vennikandom provides some insight…..

It’s mind-boggling to me the way our society regards mental health issues, namely depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, it affects about 14.8 million American adults (not including the undiagnosed cases). It is more prevalent than cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and coronary heart disease, and can be just as serious if left untreated.

And here we are, a nation that has progressed and matured on topics of discrimination, such as religion, racism and sexuality that were once too taboo for discussion. We cannot, however seem to accept depression as something worth the attention.

This pressure from our society often paralyzes those who suffer from depression in silence, afraid to speak up in fear of judgement from others and from within themselves. Often there is relief when one is able to identify what ails them and to learn how to make oneself better. Unfortunately, this is one condition where the diagnosis can make one feel embarrassed, inadequate and weak.

The causes and effective treatment of depression are continuously under research. Newer developments are even confirming a possible structural component behind it. It has been noted during neuroimaging that there are certain structural changes of the brain present in those with depression, compared to those nondepressed.

“The brain is not a fixed organ, it changes with our experiences. As we learn, our brain changes and as bad things happen our brain can also change. Things can go wrong with it just like any other part of the body,” says Olu Ajilore, MD, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System.

What can we do as a society to break the ignorance that surrounds depression and defeat yet another taboo? We need to humanize this illness. Although debilitating, depression does not have to hinder a full and successful life. In fact, those are more of the stories we need to hear – and they do exist.

It is pivotal for us to raise awareness on this subject in a way that caters to people of all different backgrounds. We have made progress in the last 60 years, but we still have a long way to go. Let’s not take another 60 to get to where we should be…..     Chicago Health    Winter/Spring    2014


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