Depression affects millions of people in the United States each year. It is one of the most treatable illnesses there is but, unfortunately, many do not seek help. This is in large part due to the nature of depression.
Being depressed means you don't feel like doing anything. Some people find it difficult enough just to get out of bed in the morning. It also makes you feel like everything is hopeless. It's hard to seek out help when you "know" it won't do any good. In addition, depression makes you feel tired, guilty, and like being alone. None of these factors is going to get someone into a therapist's office.
Friends and family members try to help by reminding the depressed person of all the good things in their life. But that just makes it worse--it adds to the guilt and makes them feel more isolated since no one understands what they're going through. Or they will suggest doing fun activities and socializing more. But that's just what the depressed person can't do!
So what is causing so much depression? Two major factors are biology and circumstances. An imbalance of certain neurotransmitters in the brain can cause depression. Some may be genetically predisposed as we know it can run in families. There are also some situations that can have an impact, such as the loss of a loved one, being unemployed, having chronic health issues, and so on. Of course, depression can be a combination of both circumstance and biology and often is. Other factors that can contribute to depression: low self-esteem, lack of coping skills, poor life skills, and so on.
Treatment depends on the individual. In some case the depression passes when the circumstances change. Other times it lifts on its own just as mysteriously as it came. But for those who can't seem to shake it or for whom it comes and goes over long periods of time, there are multiple modes of psychotherapy that have been proven effective, as well as medications, and--in extreme cases--shock treatment. I will leave that and the meds to the doctors, however.
What I try to do for my clients is:
Educate them about what depression is and does, absolve them from the guilt of being depressed, teach them coping skills for life, invalidate erroneous messages about themselves that they may have gotten in the past, explore ways to change circumstances, improve relationships that may be non-supportive, help change perceptions of themselves and the world, open up options, be a sounding board, make connections between their past experiences and how they handle things now, and much more. If you can manage to make the call, we can get started on making things better.