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Never ignore depression

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By Len Canter
HealthDay Reporter

(HealthDay News) -- Studies show that depression is underreported. People aren't getting the help they need, sometimes because they don't know the warning signs or where to turn, or are embarrassed because of the stigma that can still surround mental health issues.

But the numbers are too great to ignore. Up to 26 percent of U.S. women and up to 12 percent of men will experience major depression at some point in their lives. In any given year, that's 16 million American adults.

As many as one in 33 children and one in eight teens also struggle with depression -- that's 9 percent of kids aged 12 to 17 in any given year. And new research suggests these numbers may be even higher.

It's important to recognize signs of depression in yourself or a loved one, including a child, and to get help from a doctor.

Signs of depression:

Persistent sadness, anxiety or an "empty" feeling

Hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness, helplessness

Loss of interest in hobbies and favorite activities

A lack of energy and persistent fatigue

Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions

Difficulty sleeping, early morning awakening or oversleeping

Appetite and/or weight changes

Restlessness or irritability

Physical symptoms including pain

Thoughts of death or contemplating suicide

Take immediate action if you or a loved one is having suicidal thoughts. If you're thinking of harming yourself or attempting suicide:

Call 911 or go to the nearest hospital emergency room.

Call the toll-free 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Ask a family member or friend to help you make these calls or take you to the hospital.

The stigma around depression exists, in part, because it's poorly understood. However, one study found that once people are educated about it -- that it's an illness and not something those affected bring on themselves -- they are more likely to change their thinking and accept that depression can and should be treated.

Family members of someone going through depression should become educated about the disease because they make up an important part of the depressed person's support network and can help prevent a recurrence.

More information

The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance has detailed information on depression and who is at the greatest risk.

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