T.S. Eliot famously wrote that April was the cruelest month.
For many people, however, that honour belongs to January.
This week, much was made about January 16, or “Blue Monday” – reportedly the saddest day of the year.
True, the days are dark and dreary, the holiday bills are coming due, and the prospect of spring is still buried under muddy snow.
But how someone can pinpoint such a date remains a little suspect. It’s simplistic, and trivializes the very real issue of depression.
Depression affects roughly one in 10 Canadians at some point in their life. This is not a simply matter of feeling sad, or having a bad day. Most of us will experience days like that.
Depression is something deeper and much more complicated.
It can affect every aspect of a person’s life. It can damage relationships, cost jobs, lead to addictions and endanger lives. It goes beyond mental and can affect physical health, leading to complaints of persistent pain, stomach ailments and illness.
Researchers are still trying to understand the exact causes of depression. Part of the broader spectrum of mood disorders, depression can be triggered by traumatic events, medications, even genetic predisposition, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).
The challenge is that depression is not always that obvious, even to those who are suffering from it.
Break a leg and you and your doctor will know it. Your treatment will be straightforward and recovery measurable.
Depression is more complicated. The onset of depression can by gradual, meaning sufferers may never know the severity of their illness.
It’s been described as slipping into a dark hole: the deeper you go, the harder it is to climb out without help.
The symptoms are as varied as individuals, but there are some common themes, PHAC says:
• Depressed mood
• Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness or hopelessness
• Loss of interest or pleasure in usually-enjoyed activities
• Change in weight or appetite
• Sleep disturbances
• Decreased energy or fatigue (without significant physical exertion)
• Thoughts of death
• Poor concentration or difficulty making decisions
Anyone with these symptoms for more than two weeks should seek help, PHAC says. (And anyone with suicidal thoughts should seek medical help right away.)
The Chilliwack Division of Family Practice is also offering a resource fair on March 3 at CSS, which will include a keynote presentation from renowned author, physician, and expert on addictions and behaviour Dr. Gabor Maté.
We all have our bad days, whether in January or in April. The key is understanding when a bad day becomes something more and seeking help.
Greg Knill is editor of the Chilliwack Progress