All seats were filled at a lecture on depression held at the Mattapoisett Council on Aging on Tuesday afternoon. The talk is part of a monthly series sponsored by the COA.
“By 2020, depression will be second only to heart disease as a cause of disability as estimated by the World Health Organization,” said Mary Beth Quinn, RN, BSN of Gentiva Hospice in Fall River.
Quinn asked the 15 attendees to raise their hand if they or someone they knew suffered from depression. Over half raised their hands.
She told the crowd that approximately six million people over age 65 suffer from depression, but only 10 percent seek help and get relief. Depression is the number two reason that those over 65 go to their doctor. Quinn also stated that the suicide rate for those over age 80 is twice that of the general population.
“Why have this prolonged suffering?” Quinn asked.
According to Quinn, normal sadness is something everyone experiences, but depression is different in that it is persistent and interferes with the ability to function in daily life. Early symptoms include a persistent sadness, lack of interest in activities, feelings of guilt, loss of appetite, changes in sleeping habits and thoughts of death and dying.
Other signs include a lack of self-care and not cooking, cleaning or keeping up with housework.
Using the ‘chicken and the egg’ question, Quinn said that no one knows if physical ills cause depression or if depression results due to physical ills. Physical reasons for depression, thyroid disorders, dementia or other illnesses can trigger it.
Treatment can include pharmacological interventions such as the use of antidepressants, mood stabilizers and anti-anxiety drugs. Non-pharmacological interventions include herbal remedies, counseling and exercise.
“Exercise boosts levels of serotonin and melatonin,” said Quinn.
Quinn urged attendees to push those with depression to seek a doctor’s help. Other ways to fend off getting depressed include exercising regularly, remaining active and engaged, developing new interests, maintaining regular sleep patterns and taking medications correctly.
“The fact that all of you came here today shows that you are mentally healthy, active and interested in the world … it’s those who aren’t here that really need to hear this information,” said Quinn.
Future lectures will cover topics including meditation, diabetes, using technology and fall prevention. For more information, contact the COA at 508-758-4110.
By Joan Hartnett-Barry