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The Many Faces of Depression and How to Recognize Them

Health

We all know someone who has a story of depression. It could be a neighbor or a childhood friend. It could be a story of the returning vet, the family physician, or a colleague from work. Perhaps it is a story that is closer to home: of a cousin, an uncle, a brother or sister, a grandparent, a father, a mother, a child. Or maybe it is our own.


Depression is the primary cause of suicide in the United States. Children and teens are especially vulnerable, as suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages five to 24. Every thirteen minutes another suicide occurs, leading to well over 41,000 a year. As startling as this statistic is, experts warn it may be lower than the actual number of suicides per year. Due to the persistent stigma attached to depression, many of those struggling with the illness do so in shame and silence, and many deaths by suicide go unreported.

Simply put, depression is a national public health crisis in the United States and the world's number one cause of disability. Over 350 million people suffer from depression worldwide. Aside from incalculable human suffering, the cost to society is massive. The economic toll of depression on businesses in the United States is $100 billion annually, of which $23 billion alone are due to lost work days.

Everybody has a story. Yet as a society we are falling short in addressing the epidemic or even talking about it. That's why I started the Hope for Depression Research Foundation eleven years ago to spur brain research and raise awareness. Today, our Depression Task Force of top neuroscientists is conducting the most advanced depression research in the country. They have three new compounds in pilot clinical trials, each of which represent a new way to treat depression. The field has not seen a new category of antidepressants in over thirty years.

"The first steps to a healthy mind and body are to get enough sleep, eat properly, and exercise, whether you do or don't have depression. Every health professional will emphasize these three pillars of mental health. Here's to hope in your future."

We also need to move the dial on our national conversation about depression. We've got to get the word out faster and farther than we ever have before. For those who suffer from mind-brain illness, understanding what they're going through is the first step. The second is finding people to talk to. We need public education and widespread discussion so that those who need it are empowered to seek help, and those who encounter the illness in a friend or loved one have the necessary understanding and compassion to offer meaningful support.

The signs and symptoms below can indicate depression when they are present nearly every day for at least two weeks:

- Sad or crying unexpectedly

- Anxious or irritable

- Loss of interest, pleasure

- Hopeless or helpless

- Low energy, fatigue

- Sleeping too much or too little

- Loss of appetite or weight gain

- Difficulty concentrating

- Aches or pains with no clear physical cause

- Thoughts of suicide

Men may show additional symptoms of depression, such as: womanizing, gambling, drinking excessively, and belligerence. Experts believe that when these symptoms are taken into account, just as many men have depression as women.

If you notice any of these symptoms in someone close to you, here are some suggestions on how you can help:

- Offer an ear: Ask questions and listen to the answers. If you haven't suffered from depression, it can be difficult to understand what it's like, so go easy on the advice.

- Gently suggest getting a doctor's help: If your loved one isn't getting help from either a medical doctor or a therapist, gently suggest that he or she seek help. The first step is to see a primary care physician.

- Form a community: Rally other friends or family members to help support the person with depression. It's hard to take it all on your own shoulders.

- Learn about your loved one's treatment plan: If you're involved in the person's care, make sure you know what the treatment plan is. If possible, have the person give permission to his or her doctor to communicate with you.

- Finally, if someone you know is suicidal, immediately call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or call 911.

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Lifestyle

Unconventional Parenting: Why We Let Our Children Curse

"Sh*t!" my daughter exclaimed as she dropped her iPad to the floor. A little bit of context; my daughter Victoria absolutely loves her iPad. And as I watched her bemoan the possible destruction of her favorite device, I thought to myself, "If I were in her position, I'd probably say the exact same thing."


In the Rastegar family, a word is only a bad word if used improperly. This is a concept that has almost become a family motto. Because in our household, we do things a little differently. To put it frankly, our practices are a little unconventional. Completely safe, one hundred percent responsible- but sure, a little unconventional.

And that's because my husband Ari and I have always felt akin in one major life philosophy; we want to live our lives our way. We have dedicated ourselves to a lifetime of questioning the world around us. And it's that philosophy that has led us to some unbelievable discoveries, especially when it comes to parenting.

Ari was an English major. And if there's one thing that can be said about English majors, it's that they can be big-time sticklers for the rules. But Ari also thinks outside of the box. And here's where these two characteristics meet. Ari was always allowed to curse as a child, but only if the word fit an appropriate and relevant context. This idea came from Ari's father (his mother would have never taken to this concept), and I think this strange practice really molded him into the person he is today.

But it wasn't long after we met that I discovered this fun piece of Ari Rastegar history, and I got to drop a pretty awesome truth bomb on Ari. My parents let me do the same exact thing…

Not only was I allowed to curse as a child, but I was also given a fair amount of freedom to do as I wanted. And the results of this may surprise you. You see, despite the lack of heavy regulating and disciplining from my parents, I was the model child. Straight A's, always came home for curfew, really never got into any significant trouble- that was me. Not trying to toot my own horn here, but it's important for the argument. And don't get the wrong impression, it's not like I walked around cursing like a sailor.

Perhaps I was allowed to curse whenever I wanted, but that didn't mean I did.

And this is where we get to the amazing power of this parenting philosophy. In my experience, by allowing my own children to curse, I have found that their ability to self-regulate has developed in an outstanding fashion. Over the past few years, Victoria and Kingston have built an unbelievable amount of discipline. And that's because our decision to allow them to curse does not come without significant ground rules. Cursing must occur under a precise and suitable context, it must be done around appropriate company, and the privilege cannot be overused. By following these guidelines, Victoria and Kingston are cultivating an understanding of moderation, and at a very early age are building a social awareness about when and where certain types of language are appropriate. And ultimately, Victoria and Kingston are displaying the same phenomenon present during my childhood. Their actual instances of cursing are extremely low.

And beneath this parenting strategy is a deeper philosophy. Ari and I first and foremost look at parenting as educators. It is not our job to dictate who our children will be, how they shall behave, and what their future should look like.

We are not dictators; we are not imposing our will on them. They are autonomous beings. Their future is in their hands, and theirs alone.

Rather, we view it as our mission to show our children what the many possibilities of the world are and prepare them for the litany of experiences and challenges they will face as they develop into adulthood. Now, when Victoria and Kingston come across any roadblocks, they have not only the tools but the confidence to handle these tensions with pride, independence, and knowledge.

And we have found that cursing is an amazing place to begin this relationship as educators. By allowing our children to curse, and gently guiding them towards the appropriate use of this privilege, we are setting a groundwork of communication that will eventually pay dividends as our children grow curious of less benign temptations; sex, drugs, alcohol. There is no fear, no need to slink behind our backs, but rather an open door where any and all communication is rewarded with gentle attention and helpful wisdom.

The home is a sacred place, and honesty and communication must be its foundation. Children often lack an ability to communicate their exact feelings. Whether out of discomfort, fear, or the emotional messiness of adolescence, children can often be less than transparent. Building a place of refuge where our children feel safe enough to disclose their innermost feelings and troubles is, therefore, an utmost priority in shepherding their future. Ari and I have come across instances where our children may have been less than truthful with a teacher, or authority figure simply because they did not feel comfortable disclosing what was really going on. But with us, they know that honesty is not only appreciated but rewarded and incentivized. This allows us to protect them at every turn, guard them against destructive situations, and help guide and problem solve, fully equipped with the facts of their situation.

And as crazy as it all sounds- I really believe in my heart that the catalogue of positive outcomes described above truly does stem from our decision to allow Victoria and Kingston to curse freely.

I know this won't sit well with every parent out there. And like so many things in life, I don't advocate this approach for all situations. In our context, this decision has more than paid itself off. In another, it may exacerbate pre-existing challenges and prove to be only a detriment to your own family's goals.

As the leader of your household, this is something that you and you alone must decide upon with intentionality and wisdom.

Ultimately, Ari and I want to be the kind of people our children genuinely want to be around. Were we not their parents, I would hope that Victoria and Kingston would organically find us interesting, warm, kind, funny, all the things we aspire to be for them each and every day.

We've let our children fly free, and fly they have. They are amazing people. One day, when they leave the confines of our home, they will become amazing adults. And hopefully, some of the little life lessons and eccentric parenting practices we imparted upon them will serve as a support for their future happiness and success.