Memorial Regional Health: Collaborative approach leads to full mind and body health care — MRH adds behavioral health specialist to staff
Symptoms of depression
- Prolonged sadness or unexplained crying spells
- Significant changes in appetite and sleep patterns
- Irritability, anger, worry, agitation, anxiety
- Pessimism, indifference
- Loss of energy, persistent lethargy
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness
- Inability to concentrate, indecisiveness
- Inability to take pleasure in former interests, social withdrawal
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
Depression resourcesIf you or a loved one is suffering from depression, the following resources are available to help.
- Memorial Regional Health — patients can call 970-826-2400 to schedule an appointment with Steve Walls.
- Call 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, suicidepreventionlifeline.org
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, dbsalliance.org
- National Alliance on Mental Illness, nami.org
- American Association of Suicidology, suicidology.org
During this time of year, when people aren’t getting outside as often, seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression that becomes quite common around the region. Memorial Regional Health Behavioral Health Specialist Steve Walls notices it just about everywhere he goes, since he’s trained to read people’s body language for a livin
“People tend to be more in a funk — eyes and heads are down, and they’re not walking as upright and not as open to engaging or smiling,” Walls said. “Everyone in this little area tends to struggle when we’re indoors a lot and our vitamin D is low. Make sure to get outside, breathe in some fresh air, and get some sunlight on a regular basis. Good, heart-pounding exercise can also really take the edge off.”
Seasonal affective disorder has these more straightforward cures, but what about people suffering from major depression? Symptoms vary from person-to-person, but generally, people who are depressed might experience hopelessness, a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, appetite or weight changes, irritability, sleep changes, lower energy, physical pain, and reckless behavior, among other things.
Expanding care at MRH
Walls has been a licensed professional counselor in the Craig community for about 18 years, but he recently joined the staff at MRH. He’s thrilled to see this approach to integrated health care and feels his position on staff will enable him to help more people in the community.
“I think this is way more effective than the way I was doing therapy in private practice,” Walls said. “Because doctors and medical teams can collaborate, we can come up with a plan as a team to address a patient’s depression. If someone is in need of therapy services, we can get started right away.”
Walls doesn’t view mental health any differently than physical health. Health care is health care, he said.
“Healthy brain, healthy body; healthy body, healthy mind,” Walls said. “It’s not ‘mental’ health — it’s just health.”
Walls offers intensive one-on-one therapy services through MRH. For depression treatment, he said he usually begins by helping patients understand what is happening to their brains.
“I give patients lots of good information, because I want them to fully and thoroughly understand what is happening to them,” he said. “Then, we work on counseling, using a variety of techniques. I stay treating them until their depression is fully lifted, and they’re back on track.”
Depression involves an imbalance of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters and neuropeptides, according to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, which stressed depression is not a character flaw or a sign of personal weakness.
“Just like you can’t ‘wish away’ diabetes, heart disease, or any other physical illness, you can’t make depression go away by trying to ‘snap out of it,” the alliance said.
Depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide, according to estimates from the World Health Organization released in 2017. The WHO also estimates more than 300 million people are living with depression, an 18-percent increase between 2005 and 2015.
Walls said people who are depressed often begin to avoid their discomfort by taking things off their plates, but that only leads to more discomfort.
“There’s a classic analogy: The less you do, the worse you feel; the worse you feel, the less you do,” Walls said. “Next thing you know, that’s your new normal.”
Depression can run in families, but many people with the illness do not have a family history of it, adding to some of depression’s mystery. Research has proven that both genetics and a stressful life event or situation contribute to depression.
“When someone is depressed, everything feels sad — the brain kind of shuts down,” Walls said. “We lose hope, we begin to believe we’re worthless or hopeless, or we’re a failure in some way. Our belief systems change about ourselves.”
Treating depression is most effective when it begins early. Treatment includes antidepressant medications, talk therapy, or often a combination of the two.
“I’m about results. I do my best to be effective, and if what I’m doing isn’t effective, then we need to put our heads together and find what is,” Walls said. “The bottom line is this form of therapy, and the way we’re doing it here at MRH is probably the most effective method of treatment that I’ve seen to date.”
I spent this past Saturday morning preparing for Sunday’s lunch branding — at least what I could get done early. I cooked pasta and boiled eggs. I made a gelatin salad. I decided to bake a banana cake, a family favorite, for dessert.