2011.03.02 Kimberly Curey: Seek help when troubled by depression

Written by David Green.

“Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them...Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself...soulless and evil. You will be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life.”

– Remus Lupin to Harry Potter (“Prisoner of Azkaban”)

For those that follow the Harry Potter phenomenon and J.K. Rowling, they know that the Dementors are her manifestation of the symptoms of depression. J.K. Rowling not only had depression, but felt suicidal during that time and she had this to say in the London Sunday Times in March 2008: “What’s to be ashamed of? I went through a really tough time, and I am quite proud that I got out of that.”

Undeniably, shame is one of the chief enemies when wrestling with thoughts of suicide or self-harming behavior. Why? Because it lessens the likelihood that persons experiencing the symptoms of depression will seek treatment.

The symptoms of depression do not differ, however, they may manifest or exhibit differently from person to person depending on the age, sex and stressors in a person’s life.

The symptoms needed to make an accurate diagnosis of depression are: a loss of interest in daily life; a loss of interest in activities that the person once enjoyed; unexplained or unintentional changes in appetite or weight; changes in sleeping habits and patterns; feelings of hopelesssness, helplessness or guilt; problems concentrating; recurrent thoughts of suicide; and unexplained fatigue.

In teenagers, the symptoms may be expressed as extreme irritability, hostility, muscle aches and pains, and in some cases self-harming behaviors. Teenagers may also begin experimenting with alcohol and drugs as a way to reduce the stress in their lives.

Deliberate self-harm is an expression of extreme distress. McAndrew and Warne state that deliberate self-harm behaviors are commonly associated with “self-poisoning (by drug and alcohol misuse), misuse of food, and self-mutilation.”

Self-mutilation behaviors include cutting, burning, scratching at the skin, banging or hitting body parts, interfering with wound healing, hair pulling, and ingestion of toxic substances or objects.

There is a debate about whether or not deliberate self-harm is equivalent to suicidal thinking and most researchers and clinicians believe that this is not the case. What is similar about them is that they are both forms of self-destruction.

White, Leggett and Beech report that in a 1992 study by Stanley, that a “self-harm spectrum” be used to determine what is suicidal behavior and what is not. He suggests that by taking into account the aggressiveness of the behavior, the degree or severity of the injury, and the capacity to resist the impulse to self-injure, that the distinction will be clearer than it is currently. He cautions that since intent is an extremely gray area that any terminology applied must be done with caution.

Suicide accounts for just over one percent of deaths in the United States, with the largest impact being on young people, for whom it is the third leading cause of death. About four to five percent report having made a suicide attempt and 13 percent have seriously thought about suicide. The most common reasons are depression or bipolar disorder which were left untreated.

For people who are feeing suicidal, the first step is to call someone. J.K. Rowling contacted her family physician. For those who are beyond this—someone who is actively suicidal—the appropriate step is to take that person to the local emergency room where trained professionals can be consulted and decisions can be made regarding the seriousness and necessary treatment of the individual in need.

– Kimberly A. Curey

Licensed social worker

Fayette, Ohio

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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