**If you are having suicidal thoughts call 1-800-273-8255 or visit Suicide Prevention Lifeline (where they also have a “chat” feature if you prefer that to calling)**
If this is an emergency – Call 911
A study conducted by the Boston University School of Medicine found that depression rates have tripled since COVID-19 started — and that was back in April. The CDC found that as of June, 40% of adults in the United States reported struggling with mental health. Young adults (18-24), racial/ethnic minorities, essential workers, and unpaid adult caregivers have especially been struggling with mental health and substance use. With all the added stress and stressors from COVID and its effects, we all need to be putting extra time and effort into our well-being in a way that we haven’t had to before. Depression isn’t always obvious. It can be a slow, gradual process. Learn what your depression signs and symptoms are, and put together a plan for combating depression.
Signs and Symptoms:
Though there are common themes and traits, depression can look different person to person. It is important to get to know your symptoms. When you get to know your warning signs, you can take action and reach out as soon as possible. Remember, you are not alone. Becoming aware of your warning signs will lead you to getting the help you need before the depression becomes debilitating. The more specific you can be with your warning signs, the better. For example, maybe a change in hygiene is that you are still bathing, but not shaving like you typically would.
Taking Action and Improving Mood
It takes time and effort to come out of a depression. This includes doing activities, changing locations, and reaching out. With depression, it is harder to think, reflect/introspect, and make decisions. So, write the following down: activities you enjoy (or used to enjoy), places that improve your mood, people you can reach out to, and professionals to contact (your therapist, crisis lines at the bottom of this page). There is a caveat to these activities – it does not include binge watching TV or movies. Have this list somewhere that is easily accessible. Start incorporating these activities into your day — even when you don’t want to. Especially when you don’t want to. It’s not a miracle cure, you won’t play piano once and your depression is gone and your mood completely improved. Don’t be discouraged if the first few times you try the activities there isn’t an astounding change.
The golden trio of lasting change to improve mood is: 30 minutes of sun, 30 minutes of exercise, and 30 minutes of social. Put on some sunblock and get outside whether you are reading, walking, gardening, or just sitting in the moment. The exercise can be a quick online dance class, a walk through the park, or some deadlifts. Whatever sounds most do-able to you. Being social right now can be hard, but it is worth the extra effort. Even going to a coffee shop and being around people you don’t talk to can help. Simply getting out of the house can be the change you need to get started. You can do these activities separate, or together. For example, a socially distant walk on the beach with a friend checks all three boxes.
(To get some ideas of activities, you can check out our Behavioral Activation article on this topic.)
Having a support system is one of the top protective factors against depression. Those with a quality support system have less functional impairment, and are more likely to recover from depression. Surrounding yourself with positive, meaningful relationships enhances resilience to stress, protects against developing trauma, decreases the functional consequences of trauma, and reduces medical morbidity and mortality. (You can read more about this study here.) However, depression is isolating. When someone is dealing with depression, they are less likely to reach out for support or connection. Just like the activities, it is important to push past “not feeling like it” and reach out anyway. Having a list of 3-5 people who you feel comforted, supported, and safe with will help you reach out. Some find it helpful to have a separate list of 1-2 people who are great for distraction conversations.
Sometimes, your brain might tell you things like “I haven’t talked to them in a while, they won’t want to talk” or “I don’t want to bother/burden them.” You need to push past this to reach out. Try to think of a time where this person did want to talk to you, did reach out to you. People want to support their friends, family, and community. Not everyone is close with or turns to their family for support. Joining a church, support group, or club can help you grow your sense of community and grow your support system.
I’ve put together a guide to help you keep track of your warning signs, activities, places, and people to contact. Really try to fill out all 3 spaces. If you have more than 3 answers for any/all of these, GREAT! Write them all down.
You can download this tool here.
Blog Posts on Depression
Over the years we’ve created blog posts that pertain to depression. You can check them out here:
- Signs of Depression
- Activities for Depression (Behavioral Activation)
- Improve Your Health with 3 Daily Self-Care Habits
- Anxiety and Depression During the Holidays
- Post-Holiday Depression
- How to Practice Self-Love and Self-Care
- Understanding Emotions
- Grief Counseling in San Diego
- The Grief of Divorce
Recommended Reading for Depression
Books and workbooks can help us make sense of things and help us understand we’re not alone. Here are some books to get you started:
- The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Depression: A Step-by-Step Program BY William J. Knaus
- The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression Without Drugs BY Stephen S. Ilardi
- The Depression Workbook: A Guide for Living with Depression and Manic Depression BY Mary Ellen Copeland
- Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy BY David D. Burns, M.D.
- I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression BY Terrence Real
- The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression BY Andrew Solomon
- The Warm Line (NOT crisis) 1-619-295-1055 from 3:30 pm-11:00 pm Monday-Sunday. You can learn more about the Warm Line on their website.
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 and website with “Chat” feature, as well as specific resources for: youth, disaster survivors, attempt survivors, loss survivors, veterans, Native Americans, LGBTQ+, deaf/hard of hearing, and ayuda en Español.
- Access Crisis Line 1-888-724-7240 and Up2SD Website – with live chat and additional resources in San Diego
- Text Crisis Line: Text HOME to 741-741
- Resources for managing mental health during COVID – Behavioral Health Services, San Diego
- SAMHSA – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services