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Depression: By the Numbers

JUNE 19, 2018 | 3-minute read

Mary Ann wasn’t sure where the depression came from. But one morning, on her way to work, she couldn’t stop crying.

“I could not drive,” the U.S. Navy Veteran remembers. “I called my daughter and I said, ‘Look, I don’t know what’s wrong, but I need something. Something’s wrong.”

She is not alone. Millions of adults experience depression each year. In fact, the World Health Organization reported in 2015 that approximately 322 million people worldwide were living with depression. For some, that means constant feelings of sadness, irritability, low energy, and more. It can mean sleeping more than usual, or not being able to sleep well. It can mean losing interest in things you used to enjoy.

For Shaunne, that depression stemmed from her physical health. As she was preparing to leave the U.S. Army, she got a notice from her local county service officer that she was 50 percent disabled. “I don’t feel disabled,” she remembers thinking. But she faced multiple joint issues, asthma, and back issues. She could sleep for only short periods of time. The constant pain led to depression: “You really feel like you’re just — the only word I can think of is ‘worthless.’ … You can’t do anything right, nothing in your life is working right.”

But the positive news is that depression can be treated. And help is available.

Robert battled nightmares, drug use, heavy drinking, and depression after being sexually assaulted in the Navy. At his lowest point, he called the Veterans Crisis Line. Through group therapy, one-on-one therapy, and other forms of support, he’s seen a turnaround. 

“I always say, they gave me a toolbox,” he says. “They have a toolbox of life for us. Those tools are in there, that allow us to start repairing our lives. … I love living today. And these tears aren’t painful anymore.”

Here are four numbers that help tell the story of depression:

15.7

The National Institute of Mental Health estimated in 2014 that approximately 15.7 million adults in America, ages 18 and older, had faced at least one major depressive episode during the past year.

1 in 3

An estimated 1 in 3 Veterans visiting primary care clinics in 2008 had some symptoms of depression. These symptoms can include feeling unworthy, guilty, hopeless, and sad. And 1 in 5 Veterans had serious symptoms that suggested the need for further evaluation.

11

A joint study by the VA Palo Alto Health Care System and Stanford University revealed that 11 percent of Veterans had elevated rates of depression, compared with 12.8 percent of non-Veterans.

40

Depression can affect other areas of your health. For example, a study from the St. Louis VA Medical Center showed that Veterans with depression face a 40 percent higher risk for a heart attack than other Veterans.

For Brandon, chronic pain from a significant IED injury led to depression. In August 2011, a 500-pound explosive device shattered his spine — the Army Veteran had to learn how to walk again. And once he was home, “I felt like I had nothing to get out of bed for, so I would just stay in bed for days and weeks on end.” Finally, one day, his wife told him: “You’re not Brandon. You’re not the man I married.”

He sought help, and through the OEF/OIF therapy program, he began to work through his challenges. “The day that I decided to go get help was the next step, the next chapter of my life,” he says. “It ended the dark days, and it began the life I have today, which is pretty amazing.”

Depression is treatable. Hundreds of thousands of Veterans have gotten help for depression. Treatment options include counseling, therapy, medication, or a combination of these.


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