By Mariana Pacheco
Guest Columnist, DMACC Honors student
Depression is a very serious condition. It affects one in every five women and one in every ten men. The Mayo Clinic defines depression as a condition of general emotional dejection and withdrawal; sadness greater and more prolonged by any objective reason. The bigger problem caused by depression is made considerably worse because of those with depression who go undiagnosed, or even untreated.
Unfortunately, depression can lead to suicide and suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Every 12.3 minutes there’s another death by suicide (not counting the other 6 people that are affected by it.) Suicide takes more than an estimated 44,000 American lives a year and it’s only on an incline. An estimated quarter of a million people a year are suicide survivors. But for every unsuccessful suicide attempt, there is one successful attempt. But, what if we could stop this from happening if people were to get the help they need?
As I began my first semester in the Honors Program my professor, Dr. Jane Martino, and I took on a project that was bigger than the both of us. I have always been interested in mental health so we had an idea of where we wanted to go. When we began to work on the project something unfortunate happened. Edward, an honors student, committed suicide. This was something that affected many of us on our Boone campus, including Dr. Jane Martino. We had to find a solution to this big issue. Our main concern was: how do we get people who are suffering from mental health to reach out for help?
The game plan couldn’t be clearer. We should interview a psychiatrist and a psychologist to learn all that we could about depression. We had to research the “How” and “Why” one would make an appointment with either licensed professional. We had to find a way to connect this to the Des Moines Area Community College, and we also had to find a way to share this information with the people on our campus.
As we began our research we found more information proving our main concern. The Health Line depression statistics show that over 80% of the people that show signs of depression go undiagnosed. An estimated 121 million people around the world suffer from depression. This means that more than 30% are in the United States (that is 36.3 million people.)
As soon as we learned about these numbers the pressure to resolve this was even greater. After a big amount of research Dr. Martino introduced the idea of talking to Erin Neumann, who is the DMACC Student/Community Resources Coordinator at the DMACC Boone Campus. After scheduling a meeting as well as talking about my project Erin talked to me about COMPASS Clinical Associates which is located in Urbandale, Iowa. Back then DMACC was creating a union with COMPASS Associates so these therapists could treat DMACC students. This way students would not have to drive long distances to see a doctor but the doctor drives to see the student or DMACC finds a way to facilitate the transportation. The only thing left was how to advertise it.
After learning more about the disease, it was now time to talk to the professionals to learn not only about the disease but also about the treatment. So, I spoke to Dr. James R. Trahan, M.D. Dr. Trahan is a Psychiatrist whose clinic is in Ames, Iowa. Our interview lasted over two hours. Not only did I learn about the treatment, but also about how depression works from the point of view of the physician (the help) and the patient (the one who needs help.)
Dr. Trahan had what he called “The Tiger Metaphor,” which focused on both perspectives. The metaphor entails a person stuck in a cube, where no one can get in and no one can get out. Suddenly, a tiger appears on the other side of the room. The person’s heart rate goes up and he find himself with two option; 1) I attack the tiger and fight back or 2) I won’t even try to fight for my life and let him eat me. That is how patients act towards their depression, I either look for help or I give up on my life. Also, that is how physicians see it. They won’t be able to help anyone unless the person himself/herself is willing to help fight. To me this was so interesting because it was a very well-constructed idea that could be shared to everyone so they could to see the dangers of the disease.
After my meeting with Dr. Trahan we came up with an avenue to post this information so we came up with two things: 1) A pamphlet that could be placed around campus showing the differences between a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist of “How” and “Why” you should contact one and 2) A presentation that could be shown in the College Experience Class (SDV 108) at DMACC so every student could be informed of the available resources on Campus.
So, let’s fix that bridge between suicide and life. If you or any of your loved ones or friends feel sensitivity to particular life events based on attentional biases, have a sense of being trapped, or have an absence of rescue factors, please reach out for help. Since when depression strikes once, you have a greater chance of it re-occurring. Reach out in times of crisis, you’re always able to find someone who will take the time and listen to you. Allow yourself to get treatment at the earliest sign of depression. The earlier you allow yourself to get treatment, the sooner you’re going to be on the road to recovery.
Mariana Pacheco is an honors student from the DMACC Boone Campus. She will be transferring to the University of Iowa in the Fall 2017 to major in biomedical sciences and neurobiology. Her dream is to attend medical school and specialize in neurology.