Tag: social stigmas

Depression and Cognition: A Correlation

Once upon a time, depression was viewed by many as a term used by desperate individuals, who were seeking attention or individuals lacking willpower and coping skills. Flash forward to today and we’re seeing the dangerous effects of untreated depression, such as suicide, murder, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence and so on.

We all go through some form of sadness from time to time, whether it’s from a job loss, a failed relationship, a sudden death, and even poor family dynamics, however, when that sadness becomes a part of your everyday routine, you know it’s time for a doctor’s visit. Depression affects you in more ways than you would think and it’s absolutely vital to seek help when you notice certain changes before you begin to spiral out of control. Personally, the one symptom that got me to my doctor’s office was my lack of concentration. As a writer, you cannot function without it and I became very suspect that something wasn’t right, right away. Social isolation is also something I experience as I work from home. We know that friendships become scarce the older we get, so imagine working from behind your computer screen, while living alone and you get the perfect case study for depression and the deterioration of one’s cognitive abilities. My short term memory doesn’t exist, brain fog is consistent, focus is almost impossible and the two things I haven’t lost as yet are my sense of humor and wit, which I am almost positive will ultimately make an exit. Cognitive decline is one of the most embarrassing and debilitating thing to happen to anyone, in my opinion, especially due to its social effects such as losing your train of thought in the middle of an interview.

Recently, I was diagnosed with a mild form of depression known as Dysthymia, a persistent depressive disorder (PPD), which now puts everything into perspective. Like major depression, it’s a mood disorder with similar effects. “Diagnosis of dysthymia can be difficult because of the subtle nature of the symptoms and patients can often hide them in social situations, making it challenging for others to detect symptoms.” Sansone, 2009, Dysthymic Disorder: forlorn and overlooked. This disorder isn’t biological, however, just having family members living with depression can put you at risk of developing dysthymia. Research also indicates that this type of disorder is far more chronic than major depression because it can begin in early childhood and go undetected for many years until it manifests into major depression. It makes perfect sense as to why I’ve always felt a deep sadness within me that I couldn’t explain and being the social and charismatic kid that I was, made it impossible for anyone to suspect that I was depressed. As a child, I thought my sadness was the result of not having my parents around, but as I grew older the feelings never left. As a young adult, I spent my early 20’s feeling sad and depressed because everyone around me had their own ideas and opinions about who they wanted me to be. Being emotional as I am, I internalized everything, which eventually lead me to develop suicidal thoughts. The fact that depression and mental health weren’t taken as seriously as it is today, allowed my dysthymia to progress. Fortunately, with therapy, it is possible to regain some sort of normalcy and control in one’s thoughts. Will my poor concentration and memory loss be a thing of my past? I sure hope so because my writing nor 150 LSAT score won’t magically appear.

As I researched this topic, I spoke with several people dealing with some form of depression, who each had one thing in common, an innate fear of being labeled and stigmatized, so no one wanted to speak with me on the record. This alone shows that even though we’ve come a long way with educating society on depression and mental health, we’re still not in the clear and more work needs to be done. If we came together to discuss our experiences with the disorder then maybe people wouldn’t suffer in silence or resort to taking his or her own life. Time and time again we hear about suicide cases, especially amongst celebrities and we’re left baffled as to why because they seemed fine. Well, in most cases we don’t find out until it’s too late.

Depression isn’t a joking matter because it can affect anyone and at any given time, but the key thing to remember is that it’s possible to overcome. Wanting to end your life shouldn’t be your first thought, instead, think about ways to manage your symptoms and coping mechanisms that have been tried and proven to work. I think that a lot of sufferers are those with empty hearts, who feel burdensome by their limited or lack of fulfilling and gratifying relationships. For these sufferers, a simple “hello” or “how are you” can make a huge difference in their mood and energy. We all want to feel valued, loved, and cared for, thus making it important to stay away from abusive relationships and negative people. Negativity in every form is bad for your health and your well-being, and it’s crucial to find a balance if you want to improve your cognitive skills and life. Life is too short not to be happy.

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Favorite Film and Why It’s Important

“Back there I could fly a gunship, I could drive a tank, I was in charge of [a] million dollar equipment, [and] back here I can’t even hold a job parking cars.” This is from the scene in First Blood, where John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) broke down in front of his former commanding officer, Colonel Sam Trautman (Richard Crenna) towards the ending of the film.

First Blood is and will be one of my favorite films and it’s rather interesting just how much his character relates to some veterans today. The movie was released in 1982 and is based on the 1972 novel of the same name, which was written by David Morrell. In the book, Rambo commits suicide at the end, but in the movie, the beloved character was given an alternative ending in order to continue with the film’s three sequels. Rambo was like every other soldier; well trained, disciplined, loyal to his country and ready to give his life for his fellow citizens. “[He was] a troubled and misunderstood Vietnam veteran who must rely on his combat and survival senses against the abusive law enforcement of a small town.”-Wikipedia. After seven years of being discharged from the military, Rambo traveled on foot to visit one of his comrades in the small town of Hope, Washington. When he arrived, he found out that his friend had passed away from cancer, which he developed as a result of his exposure to Agent Orange during the war. Instead of leaving the town, Rambo continued to wander around only to come across the town’s vile sheriff, Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy). He asked the Sheriff for directions to a diner, but was driven out of town instead and because he refused to leave, he was then arrested. Rambo fought his way out of jail, which ultimately sparked a vicious manhunt. Based off of my limited knowledge in the field of psychology, most of his decisions in the movie can be looked at as those of someone with untreated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)-a form of mental illness that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, such as war and sexual assault. Sadly, most of our veterans today are suffering from this dreadful illness, which can lead to several other psychological illnesses, as well as, homelessness and addictions.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, it is estimated that “PTSD afflicts almost 31 percent of Vietnam veterans, as many as 10 percent of Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans, 11 percent of veterans of the war in Afghanistan and 20 percent of Iraqi war veterans.” The numbers may seem small in comparison, however, it is enough to persuade the military to take more action into providing better care for our veterans. Based on recent PTSD statistics, it was reported that “17% of combat troops are women; 71% of female military personnel develop PTSD due to sexual assault within the ranks.” Last summer, I met a young woman in Florida named Chrissy, who is part of the 11 percent of Veterans from the war in Afghanistan. Although she hadn’t experienced rape, Chrissy lost her parents at an early age as a result of a car accident, and so she suffers from depression and addiction, as well as PTSD. She is also a mother to a beautiful baby boy, but due to her illness, she often spends time away from him whenever she experiences an episode. During our discussion, we both agreed that the military isn’t doing enough to reintegrate veterans back into society, something Rambo could’ve benefited from. They go through vigorous physical and mental training in order to be combat-ready and once they’ve passed all requirements, they’re deployed to their specific locations around the world. Now, when they’ve completed their missions and are ready to be discharged, there’s little to no counseling prior to their exit. According to Chrissy, they’re given their discharge papers and a pat on the back wishing them luck on the outside, similar to the treatment prisoners receive. Although there are resources available to our vets, it’s not always utilized. Many vets are sometimes too ill to even realize that there’s a problem and so he or she may not seek help in time, which can lead to an array of additional issues. The consensus remains that upon dismissal, each veteran should be offered extensive counseling prior to reintegration. It’s not only a good idea for the individuals, but also for communities nationwide because the violence and murder rates among veterans are steadily rising. According to a recent survey conducted by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation, “nearly one-third say that their mental health is worse than it was before they left, and nearly half say the same of their physical condition. Almost half say they give way to sudden outbursts of anger. Only 12 percent of the surveyed veterans claim they are now “better” mentally or physically than they were before they went to war.”

“After an argument about a leave denied, Specialist Ivan Lopez pulled out a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun and began a shooting spree at Fort Hood, America’s biggest stateside base, that left three soldiers dead and sixteen wounded.”-The Nation. We hear about these acts of violence being committed by our service men and women suffering from PTSD far too often. Although males mostly perpetuate these acts, women too, experience bouts of violence. Based upon data from 2011-2012 from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, roughly 1,400 female veterans were imprisoned with another 1,600 jailed. For every female jailed there are just as many, who are experiencing abuse and neglect from her spouse battling PTSD. It’s also important to note that the unemployment rate is significantly higher among female veterans with an estimated 15 percent of females between the ages of 18-24 and another 10 percent between the ages of 25-34. Sadly, 9.8 percent of our homeless veterans are females and this is a problem that our military should address.

In First Blood, Rambo was showcased as a nuisance, a lost soul, a troublemaker, a wanderer and a dangerous man. Behind his “damaged” exterior was a resourceful and fair man with great leadership skills, who would’ve thrived in a position of authority if given the chance. Never mind the sight of powerful machinery and a gorgeous human evading the law, Rambo was a hero to 12-year-old me because he consistently fought for what he believed in and never feared questioning authority. With proper care, this character would’ve been a much better person and that too is true for veterans like Chrissy. Our military needs to work harder at protecting and helping all veterans, but because women are at a greater disadvantage, they deserve to receive an extra 50 percent of the help currently offered. The treatment Rambo received from law enforcement is what we should strive to not do to our troubled veterans. Instead, be proactive and get him or her the help they so desperately need without ostracizing the individual.

If you or any veteran alike is experiencing hardships, please visit these websites for more information:

http://www.nchv.org

http://nvf.org

http://www.endhomelessness.org

https://www.va.gov