TEMPLE, Texas — October is Depression Awareness Month. A study done at the Boston University School of Public Health at the beginning of the pandemic found that depression symptoms were three times higher now, compared with the most recent estimates on mental health in the U.S. In this week's "Your Best Life" 6 News Anchor Leslie Draffin spoke with a Temple doctor about ways to spot depression in yourself and your loved ones and the lifestyle changes that might help you feel better.
"I definitely feel like I've seen an increase in people coming in for other things and also mentioning being depressed and anxious," Dr. Ryan Fowler of Equilibrium Squared Holistic Health said.
Dr. Fowler said feeling depressed right now isn't a big surprise.
"You know, just think about the overall reach. You know, everything changed for several months and it's still not back to normal. People lost their jobs, they can't see their friends, they can't see their family. So it's drastically caused even the normal person to feel depressed and anxious and I know even me personally, I've felt a lot of anxiety about it, and sadness about having to change how things go and I see that my friends and family as well. For sure," he said.
But how do you spot depressive symptoms? Dr. Fowler said it starts with a change in your day-to-day mood and may progress from there.
"Well, definitely when it starts to affect your life. Maybe you just don't feel like going to work or you're late to work or you stop exercising or you stop going out to hang out with your friends, those would be bigger signs that something more is going on and I would encourage you to go talk to your doctor about it," he said.
According to Dr. Fowler, if you've had a bad day or even a bad week but then pop out of it, it might not be something to worry about. But if it’s lasted for more than two weeks, go see your doctor. Dr. Fowler also said friends and loved ones often spot changes first, but if you can't see those people right now due to COVD-19, keep a journal or log of how you're feeling.
If you have a history of mental health issues, watch out for those symptoms and talk to your friends, family or coworkers, if you're comfortable, so they can help watch for them too. But even if you've never had problems in the past, you might be struggling now. Dr. Fowler said you aren't alone.
"I think this has put a lot of stress on everybody regardless of who you are. I've seen a ton of people that come in that have no history. But suddenly they're just feeling really anxious or down about all the circumstances of life right now."
So if you're feeling down, Dr. Fowler suggested lifestyle changes like exercise, meditation and eating a diet of whole foods, not junk food, which can be just as powerful as medication for many people.
"I think sunlight or being outdoors is great when it comes to dealing with stress. Counseling and therapy is also great, you know, it doesn't have to be formal, so talking to your friends and family. So those are all some simple things people can do to treat their own depression or help their own mood to get better," he said.
Finally, Dr. Fowler said your kids might feel depressed right now too, but might not know how to tell you.
"It has been a hard time for kids so, you know, it's much harder to pinpoint in kids because you can't just ask them these questions. Depending on their age, you just have to look for moodiness or they're not eating or losing weight or gaining too much weight or sleep issues. Not wanting to do their hobbies, their homework. Not wanting to go to school, you know, there's lots of things that can be contributing to that as well," he said.
But helping kids feel better is a lot like helping adults. Dr. Fowler suggested exercise, playing games, getting into nature and talking openly as a family.
Dr. Fowler said if you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide or death, seek help immediately. You can call 9-1-1 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
"And there is hope. I would tell people there's hope that you can get better from these conditions and go back to a normal life or even better than you were before," Dr. Fowler said.
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