Betty and Barney are going in opposite directions: He's sleeping too much and gaining a lot of weight; she's not sleeping and is losing weight. Over the past few months he has become aggressive and hostile, while she's no longer interested in the people around her and is becoming more and more isolated.
The two fictitious characters are suffering from the same malady: Depression. They are "composites" used by Depression/Awareness Recognition and Treatment (D/ART) program instructors to show people at all levels what depression is, how to recognize it and when and where to get help.Utah received one of 10 D/ART grants in a pilot project sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health, said Tia Davis, project chairwoman. D/ART operates under the auspices of the Mental Health Association in Utah.
Monday, D/ART education co-chairmen Carol Voorhees and Dr. John Richards presented a training session to Salt Lake County commissioners, other officials and department heads. The bulk of the D/ART project consists of such training sessions, available to any group for $110. (If an organization can't afford training, the fee may be waived.)
Symptoms of depression are varied and sometimes opposite, as with Barney and Betty. But key points to look for include continual sadness, change in sleeping patterns (too much or too little), inability to get started on projects, lack of energy, lethargy, inability to make decisions, guilt, chronic disappointment in self, crying more than usual, emphasizing personal weaknesses, irritability, altered eating patterns and acting out - either physically or verbally.
People who are depressed may become more isolated, confused, "helpless, hopeless and hapless," and unable to concentrate. With many, there is a sense of being out of control. Some talk of "ending it all" and others "numb" themselves with alcohol and drugs.
Voorhees and Richards listed many things that can lead to depression, including any kind of loss (loved one, money, health, etc.), chemical imbalance, unrealistic expectations, major changes (even positive ones), stress, fear, abuse as a child, a genetic predisposition, physical illness, substance abuse and even low blood sugar. Nationally, depression is said to affect one in four women, one in eight men, and 18-39 percent of the teenage population at some time. In Utah the average is one in five adults.
"One-third of the youths in the juvenile court system are depressed," Richards said. "Ten percent of those under 12 are depressed. And one of seven severely depressed people will commit suicide." Utah ranks 13th in adolescent suicide.
Depression takes a tremendous toll economically - an estimated $16 billion annually across the nation, $10 billion of that just in time lost from work.
Voorhees said people generally have three ways of dealing with depressed friends. They either get angry and say "Snap out of it!" comfort them or avoid them.
If depression persists beyond three weeks, professional help is needed. Those who want to learn more about depression should call Holly Whiting at 273-3944.