October is recognized as Depression Awareness Month each year. The purpose is to increase understanding, decrease stereotypes, and help educate on how depression and other mental health issues impact people.

Awareness months give people affected by a specific condition a chance to share their stories. The goal is to help increase the overall understanding of depression or other conditions and help overcome stereotypes.

Some organizations may also use the month as an opportunity to raise money for research. Funding research can help improve treatment options, increase access to treatment, and help fund other important efforts surrounding depression and mental health.

The following article reviews why Depression Awareness Month is important, ways to observe the month, depression facts, and where to find support.

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Depression Awareness Month helps to increase the general population’s knowledge and understanding of depression and some other mental health conditions. During the month, different organizations host live and online events, use social media tags, and promote awareness.

Depression is a common mental health concern in America and throughout the world. Far more than just “feeling sad,” depression negatively impacts how a person feels, thinks, and acts. It can cause disruption to school, work, and personal interests.

Misconceptions and misunderstandings of depression contribute to continuing stigmas about people living with the condition, the reasons it occurs, and their willingness to seek care.

In a 2018 study, researchers conducted a survey to assess the public’s knowledge of depression and the severity of the stigma surrounding it. Key findings included:

  • 30% reported believing a “weak personality” causes depression
  • 58.9% reported believing that pharmaceutical interventions or medications are not an effective treatment
  • over 70% reported understanding the importance of rest and that a person may appear happier than they actually are when living with depression

They recommend that educational interventions or campaigns may help decrease stigma and improve understanding of treatment compared to general health knowledge.

Depression Awareness Month can help fulfill their recommendation for raising specific understanding and knowledge of depression.

Learn more about depression.

A person can get involved or observe Depression Awareness Month in several ways. No way of observation is superior to another. A person can be as involved as they like. Some examples of how a person can get involved are described below.

Reach out

Reaching out to loved ones, friends, or others living with depression could make a big difference in their life. Some ways a person can reach out to others include but are not limited to the following:

  • Offer help with finding therapy or support groups.
  • Offer help with daily tasks.
  • Start a conversation about how they are feeling and express support.
  • Keep asking them to come along or join an activity even if the likelihood of them joining is low.
  • Keep in touch with them.
  • Remember to just spend time with them, have fun, and not always focus on depression.

Though a person can take many steps to reach out to friends and family, there are some things they should attempt to avoid. These can include:

  • taking things personally
  • giving advice
  • minimizing or comparing experiences
  • attempting to fix them
  • expressing a strong opinion on medication

Share your story

People living with depression, those living with people with depression, survivors of victims of suicide, and others can get involved by sharing their stories. This may be done at events, through organizations’ websites, or on social media.

Throughout the year, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) welcomes people to share their stories through their site. Through their website, a person can:

  • Submit a story to them directly to share on their website or blog.
  • Apply to share a personal story at a presentation.
  • Apply to share a personal story with law enforcement.

Around October, organizations like NAMI will share social media hashtags and groups for a person to join. They also offer a platform for people to share their stories. A person can sign up to follow NAMI’s Facebook page here for updates on upcoming events, donating opportunities, and to stay informed.

Get educated

Learning more about depression will help remove the stigma surrounding the condition, its causes and effects, and treatments. Having general health knowledge is likely not enough to fully understand depression.

A person should consider learning more about what depression is, its symptoms, how it presents, its types, causes, and treatment options and effectiveness.

Depression is a common mental health condition. It causes changes in how a person thinks, feels, and acts.

There are several different types of depression, including:

Depression affects an estimated 5% of the total global adult population. In the U.S., depression affects about 16 million people each year, with about 1 in 6 adults experiencing depression at some point in their life.

It can affect anyone at any age, including children and teens.

Though the exact cause is still unknown, experts indicate that a combination of different factors may contribute to its development, including:

  • genetics: such as a family history
  • environment: changes to a living situation, job, or school; major life events and other factors
  • biological: living with certain medical conditions, taking certain medications, or other conditions may play a role in depression
  • psychological factors: such as traumatic events, stress, or other influences

Symptoms of depression can be different for each person, and how a person presents with symptoms can vary. Some common symptoms and signs of depression can include:

  • feelings of hopelessness
  • persistent sad, anxiety, or “empty” mood
  • feelings of irritability, frustration, or restlessness
  • physical aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems
  • loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • difficulty sleeping, waking early in the morning, or oversleeping
  • decreased energy, fatigue, or feeling slowed down
  • changes in appetite or unplanned weight changes
  • thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.

Find more links and local resources.

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A person can seek support for depression or other mental health conditions from several areas. Some starting places could include:

  • talking with a friend or family member about how they are feeling
  • speaking with a doctor about concerns
  • reaching out to a mental health professional or social worker

People having trouble finding a mental health professional can search for providers online. For example, a person can use the Anxiety & Depression Association of America’s (ADAA) search feature to find a therapist.

A person could also contact the National Helpline either by calling 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visiting their search tool online to help find a mental health professional.

Depression Awareness Month helps to spread information and awareness about depression to help remove the stigma about depression and its treatments.

A person can get involved by sharing their story, learning more about the condition, or reaching out to friends or family who are living with depression.

People living with depression seeking treatment can use online tools to help find mental health professionals.