Awareness is key to preventing depression

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Matthew Coleman-Foster
  • 50th Space Wing Public Affairs


October is National Depression Awareness Month, which aims to highlight one of the top public health problems, affecting 300 million people nationwide.

According to Capt. Louis Pagano, 21st Medical Squadron mental health element chief, major depressive disorder and persistent depressive disorder are the most common forms of depression.  

According to a 2014 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association of Psychiatry, nearly one in four active duty members show signs of a mental health condition.

People with depression report feelings of sadness and hopelessness, they often have little to no energy or motivation to do things they used to find enjoyable.

“Although getting active has been shown to help people with depression, it is often very hard for them to ‘get over the hump’, Pagano said. “As a result, they tend to withdraw by cancelling plans and avoiding important activities. While this avoidance and withdrawal brings relief in the short term, research has shown this behavior tends to increase symptoms of depression in the long run.”

For active duty services members, the prevalence rates for depressive disorders ranged from 2.7 percent to 4.0 percent between 2005 and 2016, and 1.7 percent and 3.1 percent for the guard, respectively.

The root of depression is multidimensional and includes cognitive, behavioral, somatic and biochemical changes in the body.

Tech. Sgt. Jennie Hackett, 21st MDS mental health element noncommissioned officer in charge, said having depression awareness is more about having self-awareness.

“If we are not aware of our behavioral changes or changes in thought, there is the chance of spiraling into negative situations, causing what could have been an easily solved issue to be exacerbated, making it difficult to recover from whatever is causing the depression,” she said.

Each person experiences depression in different ways. The exact mechanism of change remains a target for ongoing research and investigation.

Pagano said symptoms for depression can range from changes in sleep pattern, appetite, energy level, concentration, daily behavior or self-esteem and can be associated with thoughts of suicide.

The Air Force and the Department of Defense are actively combating depression in the military with two forms of treatment.

“The two most robust forms of treatment for depression generally speaking are psychotropic medications and Cognitive Behavior Therapies,” Pagano said. “CBTs are types of treatment that are based firmly on research findings. These approaches aid people in achieving specific changes or goals to improve symptoms of depression and quality of life.”

There are several agencies to reach out to for help in a trying time. Military OneSource, the Base Chaplain, Military Family and Life Counselor and the Base Mental Health Clinic and Primary Care Providers.

“Depression is very treatable for most people, most of the time,” Pagano said. “There are multiple forms of treatment and support available for members. Please ask for help if you or anyone else is experiencing these symptoms. The earlier one gets help, the better the prognosis.”

For more information, contact the Schriever Air Force Base Mental Health Clinic at 567-4619.