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Depression: Myths, Facts Backed Up By Numbers

Graphic with text: Depression is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.
Graphic courtesy of Deployment Health Clinical Center

The new statistics for depression are in, and they may surprise you. Getting educated about depression is important. Take a look at these myths and facts to better understand depression, and how to approach it if you or someone you know is struggling.

  • Myth: Depression is not a wide spread issue in America.

Fact: PDF: 6.7 percent of adults ages 18 or older had a major depressive episode in 2016, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

  • Myth: Depression is not a serious issue for kids and teens.

Fact: Among children ages 12-17, 12.5 percent had a major depressive disorder episode in 2015 according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

  • Myth: Depression is the same for everyone.

Fact: The Mayo Clinic’s latest numbers show women are nearly two-times more likely than men to experience depression. Men and women exhibit different symptoms of depression.

  • Myth: Depression will go away if you wait it out

Fact: Although depression may go away on its own, most people with depression find that it doesn’t go away and can get worse over time. Trying to wait it out may bring unnecessary risk to your career and your personal relationships. Depression can also be a contributing factor in suicide. There are proven treatments for depression that work relatively quickly and have high rates of success.

  • Myth: Only weak people get depressed

Fact: Depression has nothing to do with a lack of toughness. This fact is supported by top leadership throughout the military. During the last two years, service members were hospitalized for depression more frequently than for anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder or substance use disorders according to the 2017 Military Health System Data Repository.

  • Myth: People should be able to snap themselves out of depression

Fact: You can’t use willpower alone to cure yourself of an infection like pneumonia – the same is true of depression. No one chooses to develop depression, and people can’t just choose not to have it. Depression is a mental health condition associated with changes in the brain that can’t be cured simply by trying to “snap out of it.”

  • Myth: Depression is just a bad case of the blues

Fact: Everyone feels down or “blue” at times; it can be completely normal for those feelings to last for a few hours or days. But depression can last for months or even years if untreated and may cause significant problems in a person’s work and personal life.  Depression is often a great deal more intense than just feeling sad, and can affect thoughts, feelings and behaviors such as appetite, sex drive, energy level and ability to concentrate.

  • Myth: Treatment does not work

Fact: There are many effective treatments for depression, supported by decades of research. Several forms of therapy and several types of medication are shown to reduce the symptoms of depression.

  • Myth: If I seek care, everyone in my unit will know

Fact: The majority of mental health care remains confidential. Providers only break confidentiality in limited cases, such as suicide risks  or recommended duty restrictions  that requires the provider to inform your command. If your role requires reporting and monitoring of your own mental health treatment, then your command structure will know, but not the members of your unit who don’t have a need to know. In therapy, providers talk to patients about the limits of confidentiality and what specific information will be recorded in their records or shared with others.

  • Myth: I will lose leadership roles and the trust of my unit, etc.

Fact: You are at greater risk of losing leadership roles if you are repeatedly late for work because of sleep problems, use drugs or alcohol to feel better, or make mistakes because of poor concentration. These can be symptoms of depression and can interfere with your ability to perform a mission. Seeking care is a proactive step toward ensuring readiness, and will not likely affect your leadership positions. In fact, getting treatment may be a way to maintain the trust of fellow service members and leadership.

  • Myth: I will be administratively or medically separated if I seek care

Fact: Depression is treatable; a full recovery and return to duty can be expected. A medical separation is a last resort, and generally occurs only after months of treatment have failed to return the service member to a fit-for-duty status. Service members who disagree with the need for medical separation can appeal the medical board recommendation.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, early intervention is important. Whether you are a service member, a family member or a clinician, or someone who supports them, the DCoE Outreach Center is there for you. Trained health consultants are available 24/7 by phone at 866-966-1020, email or live chat.

This story is an update of information originally posted on the DCoE website Sept. 13, 2016.

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This page was last updated on: October 16, 2017.