Risks of Depression

How can depression affect your overall health?

How much do you know about depression and do you know the risk factors?

Depression is a common but serious illness, and most people who experience it need treatment to get better. The good news is that depression — even the most severe cases — is a highly treatable disorder.

In the article “Growing Problem of Suicide Among Military Personnel”(The Army Times, June 25, 2013), Steven R. Hurst writes about Joe Miller, who five years ago was an Army Ranger captain who had served three tours in Iraq. Miller was at home holding a cocked Beretta 40mm and preparing to kill himself. He had been having feelings of helplessness and worthlessness as well as panic attacks and had even been hospitalized for a while.

But Miller didn’t kill himself. He decided he would fight his own depression and posttraumatic stress, Hurst continues.When Miller held the Beretta in his hand, he was back “in Ranger mode,” and Ranger mode is not to kill yourself. He said his military training kept him alive.

Shortly following Miller’s attempted suicide he mustered out of the service and resumed treatment for PTSD. The treatment was helpful, and he is now pursuing a doctorate in history at the University of Maine.

People don’t have to be suicidal like Joe Miller in order to be depressed. The holidays are upon us, and despite all the colored lights, decorations and parties, the weeks ahead are anything but joyful for many people. If you have a mobility impairment or other disability you may feel especially “down.”

If you have the winter blahs, you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder. Also known as “winter depression,” it is not pure seasonal depression but seasonal worsening of pre-existing depression.

How Much Do You Know?

Test your knowledge about depression by taking this quiz:

(1)What are some of the emotional symptoms of depression?

  1. 1. Hopelessness
  2. 2. Sadness
  3. 3. Irritation
  4. 4. All of the above

(2) What are some physical symptoms of depression?

  1. 1. Appetite changes
  2. 2. Chronic fatigue
  3. 3. Sleeping too much or too little
  4. 4. All of the above

(3) Which group of people is most likely to develop depression?

  1. 1. Teenagers
  2. 2. Adults older than 60
  3. 3. Women
  4. 4. Men

(4) What can cause depression?

  1. 1. Changes in brain chemistry
  2. 2. Family history of depression
  3. 3. Traumatic life events
  4. 4. All of the above

(5) Which of these diseases can increase the risk for depression?

  1. 1. Heart disease
  2. 2. Cancer
  3. 3. Stroke
  4. 4. All of the above

(6) How is depression treated?

  1. 1. Antidepressant medication
  2. 2. Psychotherapy
  3. 3. A and B
  4. 4. None of the above

(7) What are some self-help remedies for depression?

  1. 1. Join a support group
  2. 2. Spend more time alone
  3. 3. Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly
  4. 4. A and C


(1) D. Other emotional symptoms include restlessness, crying easily, losing interest in things you enjoy, and suicidal thoughts.

(2) D. Other physical symptoms are aches and pains that don’t respond to treatment, memory problems, and trouble concentrating and paying attention.

(3) C. Women are twice as likely as men to become depressed. However, the condition can affect anyone of any age.

(4) D. Certain medications can also cause depression.

(5) D. People with Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and chronic pain syndrome are also at increased risk.

(6) C. Depression can be successfully treated with medication or psychotherapy, or a combination of both.

(7) D. Staying involved in activities, quitting smoking and not drinking alcohol can also help.


The website mentalhealth.va.gov offers a brief anonymous screening anyone can take to see if they have symptoms of depression.


Help for Veterans

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs National Registry for Depression, 11% of veterans age 65 years and older have a diagnosis of major depressive disorder — a rate more than twice that found in the general population of adults in the same age range.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports a study found the risk factors for suicide for U.S. veterans with depression differed in significant ways from those of the general population. The risk for suicide generally increases with age, but in the veteran population, younger vets are at the most risk. And depressed male veterans were three times as likely to commit suicide compared to female veterans.

Translating Initiatives for Depression into Effective Solutions (TIDES) is a model of care for veterans with depression that involves collaboration between primary-care providers and mental-health specialists. For more information about programs related to veterans and depression, visit www.research.va.gov and Myhealthevet, Depression.


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