It is almost as common as the cold. According to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, depression is one of the most common health conditions in the world, affecting one out of every 10 Americans each year. Women are twice as likely to develop depression as men are.

Despite the prevalence of depression today, the disease is often misunderstood, misdiagnosed or ignored.

"Depression is often misunderstood. Its symptoms can be overlooked or attributed to a passing case of 'the blues' or another medical problem, such as a thyroid disorder," wrote Kenneth L. Noller, president of The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in a company news release. "Nearly two-thirds of sufferers do not get the help they need."

For members of the Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem community, help is available through the behavioral healthcare office, said Dr. Robert Daniell, licensed clinical psychologist for the Lawrence Joel Army Health Clinic at Fort McPherson.

The behavioral science staff in Bldg. 167 offers evaluation and treatment of mental health issues, substance abuse and family advocacy. Services are offered on Fort McPherson to active duty Soldiers, activated Guardsmen and Army Reserve Soldiers, retirees and dependents whose primary care managers are off post.

The staff includes three clinicians - two clinical psychologists and one clinical social worker. Services provided include psychological evaluations and testing, psychotherapy and counseling (with individuals, couples, families and groups) and specialized services, such as stress management counseling.

While the services emphasize psychological approaches, medication can be provided through consultation arrangements in the clinic or through TRICARE, Daniell said.
Anti-depressant medications are prescribed to treat mild to moderate depression, Noller said. Patients should be sure to take prescriptions according to the doctor's instructions as side effects, such as nausea, dizziness, constipation, skin rashes, weight gain or loss, restlessness and insomnia, can occur. Patients should quickly report any side effects, Noller added.

People who are depressed usually have several symptoms on a near daily-basis, all day, for at least two weeks. These symptoms can include:

- Lack of interest in things that used to be enjoyable
- Feeling sad or "down in the dumps"
- Restlessness, the inability to sit still or feeling very sluggish
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- A change in appetite or weight
- Thoughts of death or suicide or attempts at suicide
- Problems concentrating, thinking, remembering or making decisions
- Sleeping too much or having problems falling or staying asleep
- Lack of energy or always feeling tired

"If you have at least five of these symptoms (including one of the first two) you may be depressed," Noller said. "Talk to a doctor if you have any of these symptoms."
Although depression can have serious effects on a person's quality of living, with effective diagnosis and treatment, most people with depression will feel better and can return to the daily activities they previously enjoyed, often within weeks, according to the Mayo Clinic Web site.

People should not be afraid to seek help, as most health professionals today consider depression a chronic illness that requires long-term treatment, much like diabetes or high blood pressure, according to the Mayo Clinic Web site.

People wondering if they may be suffering from depression can consult a variety of resources available on post, Daniell said. These include chaplains, government information pamphlets and Web sites, such as www.mayoclinic.com.

"The main thing is we are here to serve and we love what we do," Daniell said.

Page last updated Thu February 5th, 2009 at 14:32