NORMAN — Dear Savvy Senior, Where can I find help for depression? My husband, who’s 68, has become lethargic and very irritable over the past year, and I’m concerned that he’s depressed.
Depression is unfortunately a widespread problem among U.S. seniors, affecting approximately 15 percent of the 65-and-older population. Here’s what you should know, along with some tips and resources for screening and treatments.
Everyone feels sad or gets the blues now and then, but when these feelings linger more than a few weeks, it may be depression. Depression is a real illness that affects mood, feelings, behavior and physical health, and contrary to what many people believe, it’s not a normal part of aging or a personal weakness, but it is very treatable.
It’s also important to know that depression is not just sadness. In many seniors it can manifest as apathy, irritability, or problems with memory or concentration without the depressed mood.
To help you get some insight on the seriousness of your husband’s problem, here’s a rundown of the warning signs to be vigilant of.
· A persistent feeling of sadness.
· A lost interest in hobbies or activities that were previously enjoyed.
· Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or hopelessness.
· Trouble concentrating, remembering or making decisions.
· Feeling anxious, restless, or irritable.
· Loss of energy or motivation.
· Inability to sleep or sleeping too much.
· Not eating or eating too much.
· Thoughts about dying or suicide.
A good resource for identifying depression is Mental Health America, a national nonprofit organization that offers a free online depression screening test at depression-screening.org. This test takes just a few minutes to take and can help determine the severity of your husband’s problem.
There’s also National Depression Screening Day which is coming up on Oct. 11. Sponsored by Screening for Mental Health, this is a completely free service that provides depression screenings by mental health professionals at hundreds of locations across the country. The test takes less than 15 minutes to complete, and is available to people of all ages. To find a site near you visit helpyourselfhelpothers.org.