January 27, 2022

Feeling in need of a lift

Depression is on the rise, but there are ways to cope

Sarah Bullock/staff reporter

Alexia Soule, 19, of Groton, exercises Thursday afternoon at the YMCA in Cortland. Soule says exercise is one the most helpful things she does to soothe her depression.

Alexia Soule lifted weights on a machine on Thursday afternoon at the YMCA on Tompkins Street in Cortland. The workout makes her feel better, she said, useful this time of year in dealing with depression.

“When you feel depression, you lack the energy to get up and out of bed to be productive,” Soule said. She said she views exercising as a double reward. “You’ve gotten out of bed, you’ve taken care of yourself, when you originally didn’t want to get out of bed.”

Depression rose to 1 in 3 Americans in 2021, according to a Boston University study, and next week common depression triggers are on the calendar: the holidays and the winter solstice.

“The holidays are always hard for people who have a loss, are socially isolated or have a sadness in their life,” said Dr. Paula Brooks, chief medical officer of Guthrie health organization, which operates Guthrie Cortland Medical Center. “We do see an increase in depression at this time of year.”

Last year, social distancing made the holiday season more difficult, Brooks said. “This holiday season isn’t as bad as last holiday because there’s less isolation.”

“New research from Boston University School of Public Health reveals that the elevated rate of depression in 2020 has persisted into 2021, and even worsened, climbing to 32.8 percent and affecting 1 in every 3 American adults,” according to a Boston University news release. “Depression among adults in the United States tripled in the early 2020 months of the global coronavirus pandemic—jumping from 8.5% before the pandemic to a staggering 27.8%.”

Ten percent of Cortland County residents report having 14 or more poor mental health days a month, reports the state Health Department. That’s on par with the state and national reports, showing 11% of people reporting similar numbers of poor mental health days.

Stress, including COVID-19 pandemic-related stress, affected the 2021 depression increase, according to the study first published on Oct. 1 in The Lancet Regional Health — Americas.

“Over time, the central drivers of depressive symptoms were low household income, not being married, and experiencing multiple stressors during the COVID-19 pandemic,” wrote the study authors.

It’s unusual that depression is persisting instead of spiking and declining, such as after the West African Ebola outbreak, said study author Sandro Galea, dean of Boston University School of Public Health.

“Typically, we would expect depression to peak following the traumatic event and then lower over time,” Galea said. “Instead, we found that 12 months into the pandemic, levels of depression remained high.”

What you can do

Tips to cope with symptoms of depression:
• Acknowledge your feelings.
• Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately.
• Exercise.
• Don’t isolate yourself. Contact friends and relatives.
• Set aside differences with family and friends.
• Plan ahead and set realistic goals for yourself.
• Postpone important decisions until you feel better. Discuss decisions with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.
• Eat healthy meals.
• Get plenty of sleep.
• Try deep-breathing exercises, meditation or yoga.
• Avoid excessive tobacco, alcohol and drug use.
• Continue to educate yourself about depression.
• Seek professional help if you need it.

SOURCES: National Institute of Mental Health and the Mayo Clinic

If you need help now:
• Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration’s helpline: 800-622-HELP (4357).
• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).
• Crisis Text Line (HELLO to 741741).
• Lifeline Chat on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.