Everyone feels sad or burned out from time to time. It’s not uncommon for people to have a bad day, or even a few bad days. Depression, though, is different in both depth and scope. It’s felt more deeply and persists longer, and it can have a profound impact on both the person with depression as well as those who work, live and associate with them.
In a new video on depression and first responders, Dr. Rachelle Zemlok talks about depression, its symptoms, and how to get help for it. First, she suggests three simple strategies to help improve mental wellness by coping with feelings of depression:
Exercise: According to researchers, “Exercise supports nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, improving nerve cell connections, which helps relieve depression.” While it can be difficult to find the motivation to exercise when suffering from depression, the results can be very positive. The hardest step is the first one out the door, whether it’s to head to the gym or even just out for a walk.
Social Support: Many first responders tend to isolate themselves as a way to protect their loved ones from the realities of what they see on the job. But studies have found “robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators.” In other words, support from friends and family is a fundamental need that nobody should go without.
Make a plan and follow through: One of the hallmarks of depression is that many sufferers withdraw from the activities that previously brought them happiness. Conversely, studies have shown that “individuals who engaged in more frequent enjoyable leisure activities had better psychological and physical functioning.” The key is to schedule such an activity and then actually do it. Asking others to help hold you accountable can be effective as well.
Second, Dr. Zemlok encourages anyone with depression to get help — from a peer support program, from a chaplain or member of clergy, and/or from a qualified mental health professional. This is especially important for those who experience suicidal ideation.
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Video: Depression – Shift Briefing
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