Few individuals realize the gravity of depression in another human’s life. For some, the state of being depressed is a choice, and a person can easily “snap out of it” if only they would think positively and cut all the drama. Depression, however, is a medical condition, an actual disease of the mind that is not easily fixed with mere will power. People sick with flu or colds are not asked to cure themselves, hence, why should depressed individuals bear their sufferings alone and without any care? It is a relief, nonetheless, that depression is not anymore new.
Millions of individuals have it and millions are also seeking the necessary treatment and medication to get on with their lives. However, recognizing and acknowledging the problem, as opposed to ignoring it, is the first step towards recovery. From the early philosophers, scholars and scientists’ perspectives, depression is a mystery caused by unknown powers in the universe. Based from early accounts, depressed or melancholic people demonstrate bizarre behavior, in which nobody could pinpoint the reason behind. Symptoms range from extreme sadness and lack of zeal in life to drastic mood changes.
With the gradual development of modern scientific processes and correspondence among experts, specialists were able to define depression, identified its symptoms, and tried to discover its causes and remedies. Frequent experiences with stress and its impact on physical health are not unique. In fact, in a study made by S. Cohen, D. Tyrell and A. Smith (1993) entitled, “Negative life events, perceived stress, negative affect, and susceptibility to the common cold”, they found a strong relationship between stressful life events (for example, death in the family) and increased susceptibility to colds.
In addition, they also discovered that “Negative life events were associated with greater rates of clinical illness” (p. 135), which may mean, that if we are sad, angry or dissatisfied, we are bound to be affected physically. Their experiment somewhat established that “psychological stress is associated with increased susceptibility to biologically verified infectious disease processes” (p. 140). One of the firefighters who survived the Sept 11, 2001 bombing killed himself after the incident. After the incident, Gary Celentani also lost his mother and ended a romance. But he was in a terrible pain after the bombing.
His suicide can be attributed to the tremendous hurt and pain after he tried to rescue people from the buildings. Other police officers who were also involved in the rescue operations also committed suicide. Aside from this, Philip McArdle, the health and safety officer for the 600-member Uniformed Firefighters Association, is also aware of about half-dozen suicide attempts by other firefighters since Sept. 11. He was also suggesting that this would increase depending on what steps the authorities will take to counsel them even after a long time.
Another study conducted by Schwarzer and U. Schulz (1991) entitled “The Role of Stressful Life Events” also concluded that “Stressful life events can shape individual biographies and affect mental and physical health to a large extent, including premature death as a result of suicide or severe disease” (Schwarzer and Schulz 26). Figure 1. Process Model of the Stress/Health Relationship, based on the Transactional Stress Theory by Lazarus (1991). There is an exact number of suicides among the rescue workers from other disasters. This is because suicide is the cause of nearly 11 people out of every 100,000 US deaths.
There have been about 100 police officers and paramedics that committed suicide from the years 1992 and 2001 based on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for USA TODAY. There may be other deaths that may not be accounted for. Because of the rate of suicide of these firefighters, there have been some therapists and psychologists who were sent to each of the firehouses where someone was killed on Sept. 11. These firefighters apparently are adept at handling traumatic situations, yet the pressure can take a toll on one’s being (Schwarzer and U. Schulz).
As of 2002, Steven Hollon, Michael Thase and John Markowitz declared that depression of those who commit suicide later is the “most common and debilitating” psychiatric disorder and is the leading factor behind suicide. The number of depression cases that deserve medical intervention is second to schizophrenia. For quite some time suicide rates was used as an index of depression’s prevalence (Beck et al. 1979). The latest reports by the United State’s National Institute of Mental Health or NIMH (2002a) showed that depression is a “real illness” that affects 9.
5 percent of America’s population or about 18 million Americans every year. Beck et al. (1979) estimated a higher number, 12 percent Americans have experienced or will experience some degree or form of clinical depression. For several years, depression has been customarily regarded as “primary mood disorder”, said Beck (1967). According to NIMH (2002b), depression or depressive disorder is an “illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. ” Beck (1967) defined depression in terms of its attributes, namely: 1. A specific alteration in mood: sadness, loneliness, apathy;
2. Negative self-concept associated with self-reproaches and self-blame; 3. Regressive and self-punitive wishes: desires to escape, hide or die; 4. Vegetative changes: anorexia, insomnia, loss of libido; and 5. Change in activity level: retardation or agitation. What Beck cited in his list are in fact the most widely observed manifestations of depression, the signs of “complex pattern of deviations in feelings, cognition and behavior” that early thinkers the likes of Aetaceus and Plutarch observed and documented even in the early times.
The most common and apparent symptoms used to detect depression are changes in appetite leading to weight gain or loss, difficulty in sleeping or oversleeping, fatigue and lack of energy, trouble concentrating, irritability, agitation, restlessness, extreme or unwarranted guilt, feelings of hopelessness or helplessness, withdrawal from activities that are once enjoyable, and frequent thoughts about death and suicide (NIMH 2002a).
Studies support the theory that women are two times more likely to be depressed than men are–a position contested with the notion that women are just more likely to acknowledge their condition and seek medical help than their male counterparts. Men, however, are not exempt from this debilitating disorder; they just exhibit different symptoms from those normally shown by women. Depressed men tend to be “irritable, angry and discouraged” rather than hopeless or helpless (NIMH 2002a).
In certain cases when the environment actually poses situations that can bring distress on a person (hostile workplace), depression becomes a learned type when that person establishes the idea that he is helpless in the face of the stressor (cannot resign from work). Learned depression or learned helplessness was developed by Martin Seligman when he tested dogs that learned to avoid electric shock and those that did not.
For the cohort that was repeatedly exposed to shocks because it did not try to escape, Weiss (cited by Kenyon 2006) explained that the norepinephrine levels abruptly decreased right after exposure but improved to normal levels after 48 hours. Thus, lower norepinephrine level is connected to one’s feeling of helplessness that whatever one does, the situation will be beyond one’s power to alter it. Learned helplessness is acquired after reinforcing the feeling of not having any control of the situation.
People in this state of depression usually look at their case as highly personal, affecting all aspects of life, and unchangeable. Not only does learned helplessness affects cognition, since it is a personal choice to give up, but it also affects motivation and emotion. In addition, the awareness that one has the power to change the situation though no action has been done yet is makes a big difference in saving a person from learned depression (Kenyon 2006; Learned helplessness 2006). It is worthwhile to note that firefighters are already stressed because of the kind of job they do.
This also includes their officers and leaders, as well as the stress of leaving their families during natural and man made disasters. Researches reveal that some personality types are also leaning towards suicide in times of stress. Education and support must be given to these firefighters so that they can efficiently finish their tasks and function well during emergencies (Shantz, 2002). This must be done early on, though because the stresses can mount up on these firefighters. In his book Dealing with Darkness, Steve Delsohn, looked into the psychological stress of firefighting.
He was able to conduct studies on the behavior of fire fighters during and after fires, and he suggests that “ Firefighters can feel. ” The firefighters are able to contain their stresses and manage to keep it hidden, although it is still there. (Delsohn, 1996 as cited in Shantz, 2002). Today, firefighters do not just fight fires because with the technology, these fire fighters are now getting better help in their work. Yet the incidences of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among emergency service workers are increasing.
The “rate for diagnosable PTSD among firefighters was 16. 5 percent, compared to a one percent to three percent rate for the general population” (DeAngelis, 1995, p. 36 as cited in Sweeney). References Bankers Online. Specific Ways to Cope with Stress. Retrieved June 25, 2008 from the http://www. bankersonline. com/ tools/cope. html Beck. A. (1967). Depression. Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Cohen, S. , Tyrell, D. A. J. , & Smith, A. P. (1993). Negative life events, perceived stress, negative affect, and susceptibility to the common cold.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64 , 131–140. Honolulu Community College. 101 Ways to Cope with Stress. Retrieved June 25, 2008 from the http://honolulu. hawaii. edu/intranet/committees/ FacDevCom/guidebk/teachtip/101ways. htm Hopkins, J. & Jones, Jones, Charisse Disturbing Legacy of Rescues: Suicide. USA Today. Retrieved June 25, 2008 from the http://www. suicidereferencelibrary. com/test4~id~1731. php Kenyon, P. (2006, March 2).
PSY221: Depression and Learned Helplessness. Retrieved June 25, 2008 from http://salmon.psy. plym. ac. uk/year2/ psy221depression/psy221depression_frames_container. htm Lieberman, S. S. (2001) Managing Stress in a Fast-Paced World, Enjoying Life. Merck Source. Retrieved June 25, 2008 from the http://www. mercksource. com/pp/us/cns/cns_gethealthsmart_template. jspzQzpgzEzzSzppdocszSzuszSzcnszSzcontentzSzkrameszSzghszSz11174_managing_stresszSz11174_02zPzhtm Schwarzer, R. and Schulz, R. (2001).
The Role of Stressful Life Events. Freie Universtat Berlin. Retrieved June 25, 2008 from the http://userpage. fu-berlin.de/~health/materials/lifeevents. pdf Shantz, M. (2002). Effect of Work Related Stress on Firefighter/Paramedic. Eastern Michigan University. Retrieved June 25, 2008 from the http://www. emich. edu/cerns/downloads/papers/FireStaff/Stress,%20Fitness,%20Wellness/Effect%20of%20Work%20Related%20Stress%20on%20the%20Firefighter%20Paramedic. pdf Sweeney, Peggy. Grieving Behind the Badge. University Health Center. Healthful Ways to Cope with Stress. Retrieved June 25, 2008 from the http://health. uark. edu/ CAPS/stress_mgmt. shtml
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