No. 465



The other day I got a letter from Dorothy Duren, who reads my column in the Valdosta Daily Times down in South Georgia. What she had to say was so important that I wrote her back, asked for permission to use her name and to share the contents of her letter with you. Her subject was depression, a mental state that negatively affects millions of people in our nation each year. It's normal for any person to be depressed when they have suffered a major defeat, a divorce, the loss of a loved one, being fired from a job, missing the cut, turned down by a favorite college and the list is endless.

While all of these things hurt, in a reasonable length of time a normal person will bounce back and be ready to face the next challenge. I get depressed when it rains for several days in a row, but up to this point, have always managed to bounce back.

However, what happens to a person who does not bounce back in a reasonable length of time and stays depressed? This is what has come to be known as severe mental depression and if not dealt with, the end result in far too many cases is suicide. This is why I said that Dorothy's letter was so important. She told me a true story about a man by the name of Stuart Perry, who has made a commitment to do something about this mental illness that is treatable. If you or some member of your family suffers from deep mental depression, I hope you will read very carefully what I am going to say and you might also pass this along to someone you know outside of your family who also suffers from this condition.

Here is the rest of the story. Dorothy said, "Just last week I attended a meeting of the Southwest Georgia Hospital Volunteers in Americus, Georgia, where I heard Stuart Perry, guest speaker. Stuart told us of his experience with depression. His father committed suicide when he, Stuart, was 21 years of age and in college. Stuart dropped out and came home and ran the family's service station for eight years before he began showing signs of depression.

The family immediately got him help (and that's the key) and when he recovered, he felt God was calling him to help publicize the importance of getting help for depressed people.

With the help of Mr. Rudy Hayes, they organized a "walk" and Stuart walked from Americus, Georgia, to Chicago, Illinois. His object was to obtain petitions requesting doctors to screen all their patients for depression and do what they could to help. He obtained many petitions, which he delivered to the headquarters of the American Medical Association in Chicago. Along the way there were rallies and he spoke at many meetings. At each of these meetings, including the one Dorothy Duren attended, he passed out a small card encouraging people with symptoms of depression to get help." She concluded her letter by saying, "I was very impressed with his endeavor because I and my family have battled with depression for many years. Hopefully, with this kind of publicity we can overcome the stigma of depression and mental illness."

Before I conclude this column, I want to give you the information that is on this card, including a couple of phone numbers where people who suffer from severe mental depression can get help. First, I would like to offer a word of caution. In these days with skyrocketing medical costs and insurance premiums that are annually outpacing the rate of inflation by a hefty margin, we don't want to further strain our system by being deceptive or misusing it. Our system was designed for people who are really sick and need help and as this relates to mental depression, there are some signs that will serve as a red light, that indicate that it's time to take action.

Here are 10 symptoms of depression. 1. Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood. 2. Sleeping too little or too much. 3. Changes in weight or appetite. 4. Loss of pleasure or interest in activities. 5. Feeling restless or irritable. 6. Persistent physical symptoms that don't respond to treatment. 7. Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions. 8. Fatigue or loss of energy. 9. Feeling guilty, hopeless or worthless. 10. Thoughts of suicide or death. This is a program of the National Mental Health Association and they recommend that you see your doctor or other mental health professional if you experience five or more of these 10 symptoms for more than two weeks.

The likelihood of depression increases if you have an illness such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. For a free, confidential, depression screening site near you, call 1-800-573-4433 and for a free brochure to learn more about depression, call 1-800-228-1114. For spiritual comfort read Isaiah 26:3.(Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)