Monday, May 14, 2012

A Dirty Word

By Devin Higgins '10 

I don’t like to admit it, but I used to be one of those people.

One of those people who thought depression was a dirty word. A word too often used as an excuse by those who just couldn’t cope with how hard life gets sometimes. I thought antidepressants were just something to make a person feel happy, and in our present hyper-medicated society, they were being dished out in favor of doing what was necessary to “get over it.”

Higgins '10
I may have been a little late in coming to the Pacific campus as a non-traditional student in my early 30’s, and by the time I got there, I’d lived quite a unique life.

My parents divorced when I was young.
I survived physical, emotional, and sexual abuse before I was a teenager
I spent time after high school homeless
I was in prison for over a year as a 19-year-old and have dealt with the stigma of being an ex-felon ever since.

I don’t say offer those things to gain sympathy or to portray myself as a victim. Rather, they are simply the facts of my life, and I wouldn’t be a good journalist if I didn’t work with facts, no matter how unpleasant they may seem.

And yet, despite all that and more, I’d somehow found the strength of character to think I could achieve my dream of a college degree. So In 2007, I went back and earned not just one, but two degrees by the time I was done.

It took a complete nervous breakdown a year ago to discover I had severe depression, along with elements of social anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and it made it all seem pointless. Like I’d wasted my time and that I was one of those people who just couldn’t “get over it.”

I felt terribly alone.

According to the World Health Organization statistics from 2011, over 121 million people worldwide are affected by depression and its component ailments. By 2020, the WHO projects depression to be the second leading contributor to the global burden of disease and productivity lost to total disability.

Right now, it’s fourth.

What’s potentially more frightening is the WHO estimates fewer than 25% of those affected have access to the care which makes depression manageable, and much of that comes as a result of the social stigma surrounding it.

According to recent statistics, suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens and young adults ages 14-24, and the second leading cause of death among college students ages 20-24.

Depression is not an isolated illness. It doesn’t care how old you are, your gender, or where you come from. And not dealing with it and refusing to accept help to treat it is probably the worst thing a person can do.

If you, or someone you know is showing signs of depression, they need your help. They need you to listen to them and have someone to talk to and be non-judgmental. It’s far from easy for everyone involved, but it’s necessary to know they’re going to be okay.

Since my diagnoses and I can tell you some days are easier than others. I take medication every day to help my brain heal, but have struggled to find counseling or therapy because access is limited by health care providers. Yet, I’ve soldiered on on my own, hoping to find some peace of mind.

There are days where I want to give up and stop thinking I still need to go through all this, but I also know that it’s part of a very long process that requires patience and a willingness to accept change.

People with depression often feel alone. The best thing we can do is make sure they know they’re not.

Higgins '10 was a journalism major with an emphasis on writing and broadcasting at Pacific. He was the Sports Editor for The Pacific Index. He is now the play-by-play voice for Linfield Men's and Women's Basketball, but asks you to not hold that against him. He is also a Staff Reporter for The Reflector in Battle Ground, Wash., covering news and sports in Northern Clark County and  a Producer/Field Reporter for KFXX/ESPN Sports Radio 1080AM "The FAN" in Portland. He lives in Vancouver, where he enjoys writing, reading, movies, photography, travel, and spending time with his infant son, Daniel.

1 comment:

  1. garold howe3:35 PM

    Welcome and aloha! Good piece Devin!