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Treating Depression for “Invisible” Populations

November 2, 2012

Throughout our Sociology of Mental Health course so far we’ve talked a lot about depression; symptoms, medication, heritability, and therapies. Frankly, the statistic that one in ten American adults report symptoms of depression (lecture) is a bit depressing. That’s why I chose this November 2012 article by Lynne Shallcross, Associate Editor and Senior Writer for Counseling Today as my blog article.

Shallcross interviewed Katherine Walker, an American Counseling Association member and private practitioner who specializes in the treatment of depression. Just like we discussed in lecture, “Walker points to genetics and the individual’s environment as two major factors that determine the likelihood of depression.” Also discussed in lecture, teens and elderly are more at risk than middle-age people. Depression may be camouflaged within moodiness for teens and considered a normal part of aging for elders, making the diagnosis of depression for these “invisible” populations difficult. Behaviors such as wanting to withdraw and hide from responsibilities, experiencing a loss of appetite or emotional eating, feeling worthless, helpless and hopeless, and feeling a general lack of direction, meaning, purpose, or motivation are symptoms of depression as well as typical for teens and elders alike. If you remember being a teen, are the parents of a teen, or have elderly parents/grandparents you may recognize some of these symptoms as general parts of these stages of life. So how do you treat this “invisible” population?

Walker believes “a whole-body approach will provide greater efficacy in the treatment of depression” and does not see medication as the “be-all-and-end-all” of treatment. She encourages clients to see their general practitioner to exclude medical conditions that could be contributing to depression, and sees wellness as a critical piece in treating the whole person. I strongly support Walker’s philosophy of teaming with general practitioners for creating the most beneficial individual treatment plan, particularly for elderly clientele. Knowledge is power and additional medical information could empower all parties involved in a client’s treatment plan. Good self-care including a regular age appropriate exercise program, participating in play (even for the elderly), engaging in healthful nutritional habits, maintaining consistent sleep-wake habits, and nurturing significant human relationships to foster social support (Handbook, 200) are all important aspects of treating depression for the whole body, thus mitigating symptomology.

Walker’s whole body approach to treating depression is exciting to me. With a professional goal of becoming a counselor myself it’s refreshing to see Counseling Today print this article encouraging current practitioners to think outside the “prescription bottle”. I know, for myself, when I engage in the good self-care practices Walker mentions above I feel better physically, which improves my emotional and mental outlook as well. While the “invisible” population could benefit significantly from Walker’s whole-body approach to treat their disorder, I’m suggesting that able-minded people could benefit by embracing her philosophy as well.

 Tawnya Severe

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