Insights: Battling Depression

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What a week—the losses of two incredible, well known people through suicide: Kate Spade, and Anthony Bourdain.

Both Kate and Anthony appeared to be full of life, having it all, wealth, travel, success, and admiration. Yet they both struggled with depression.

So often we think that having wealth and status takes away the possibility of depression. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We have no problem telling people we have other health conditions, but mental health is still seen as a weakness. Not only do we tend to minimalize the importance of mental health, we dismiss the importance of what factors impact depression.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studies show that suicide rates have increased 25 percent between 1999 and 2016. In 2016 alone 45,000 people committed suicide. Just think about that number. That is just in one year. This does not take into account people who die of alcohol abuse, or drug abuse.

So what exactly is going on that we are confronted by so many people killing themselves, or abusing drugs or alcohol, or even abusing each other?  It leaves me feeling very sad that we are struggling so much. I may not have all the answers, but I do have some thoughts.

The first step is to take the shame out of mental health issues and start addressing them like we do physical issues such as heart disease or diabetes.

Then we need to review the underlying issues in our world, in our communities and in our relationships that can also lead to issues such as loneliness, isolation, low self-esteem, poor sense of self, lack of feeling part of something larger than themselves that lead people to feel depressed.

We all need to be seen, heard and understood. I have written about this before. I believe it is one of our strongest needs as a human being, one that is strong and so innate that when not met, it can cause a lot of emotional issues including depression and thoughts of suicide.

People can have lots of friends around them, people who even love them or talk to them, but are they really seen, heard and understood?

I see so often this lack in friendships. It seems that people are looking at more what they can get from another person than what they can offer.

People are afraid to show their true selves out of fear of rejection, yet there is nothing better than knowing someone and being known by someone else with flaws, yearnings, sadness and joys.

I hope we can all be open to talk about mental health, to not judge people who struggle with depression.

Here are a few ideas that can also help us feel more connected to one another.

  1. Stay true to your values and morals. “If you’re honest and fair as you can be, not only in business but in life, things will work out.” Kate Spade.
  2. Make sure you see people for who they are, all their flaws, vulnerabilities, and deficits without judgment.
  3. Create and work at having relationships that have depth and commitment.
  4. Put energy into a purpose that brings you joy and makes a difference in the world.
  5. Do not worry about what others think.
  6. Always keep learning and being a better person.
  7. Put less focus on having money and having stuff.
  8. Always work on being the best version of yourself.

And finally, a few words from Anthony Bourdain: “As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life – and travel – leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks – on your body or on your heart – are beautiful.  Often, though, they hurt.”

Contact Dr. Shelly Zavala at or [email protected].

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