11:43 AM

Depression: How to be a helper

We can all be helpers if we understand that depression is common.

by Raven Ballard, PLPC, MOLAP clinician and well-being coordinator

Depression can be described as a profound sadness and inability to experience pleasure. But it’s important to note that depressive symptoms rarely manifest as clearly as they are defined on paper.

Some people suffering from depression may not realize that what they’re experiencing is depression. Often when I tell clients, “You have depression,” there is a long pause, and the response is one of surprise. I get it. What they’re experiencing does not necessarily sound like the textbook definition of depression, because, as lawyers, they are no stranger to the following:

  • Having problems concentrating.
  • Feeling as though they can't do anything right.
  • Feeling overwhelmed.
  • Fatigue, with too much work and little time for leisure.
  • Difficulties sleeping, either too much or too little. Difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep, or both.
  • Feeling very little joy or excitement about life.

While these symptoms are red flags for depression, the good news is that depression is treatable and working with a mental health professional has proven to be very effective for treating depressive symptoms. Communication-focused, cognitive behavioral, rational emotive behavioral, and interpersonal behavioral approaches are all useful and effective interventions. If you are concerned, consider if the subtle examples noted above might be part of something more.  

Some of the most common symptoms of depression are:

  • Depressed or low mood
  • Disturbance of appetite (eating too much or too little)
  • Disturbance of sleep
  • Loss of pleasure
  • Fatigue
  • Irritable
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Poor concentration
  • Indecision
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

An article published by the Journal of Counseling & Development noted that, following a task force study on depression, at least 7 million women and 3.5 million men in the United States could be diagnosed with major depression. Another study aimed at assessing efficacy of treatment for depression notes that an estimated 1 in 4 adults in the United States will experience symptoms of depression over his or her lifetime. These numbers are consistent with data collected from The Missouri Lawyers’ Assistance Program. According to the MOLAP mid-year annual report for 2023, 30% of all new clients reported depression as the reason they reached out to MOLAP.

We can all be helpers if we understand that depression is common. If you notice a friend, colleague, or family member having ongoing problems, listen carefully and acknowledge what they’re experiencing. Then ask yourself, are they depressed? If so, you should not react with alarm or surprise or otherwise stigmatize the condition. Calm and relaxed attention, along with support, is necessary. If the condition persists, encourage the individual to seek professional assistance. And if this is something you’re experiencing, lean into your support system, or seek additional support.

If you need to discuss coping with depression, or experiencing depressive symptoms, the Missouri Lawyers’ Assistance Program is here to help! Please consult the Missouri Lawyers’ Assistance Program at 1-800-688-7859 for free, confidential counseling. 

Dixon, W. A. (2011). “Problem-solving appraisal and depression: evidence for a recovery model.” Journal of Counseling & Development. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6676.2000.tb02564.x
Puterbaugh, D. T. (2006). “Communication counseling as part of a treatment plan for depression.” Journal of Counseling & Development. Retrieved from: https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Communication+counseling+as+part+of+a+treatment+plan+for+depression-a0149022998
Whittler, R., LPC. (2021). “Depression: How can we be helpers?”