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13:49 ET DEPRESSION SCREENING CAN HELP EVERYONE


On that day, you can get a free screening for depression in your local area. You won't be asked your name and no one will make any judgments about you. You will be given the opportunity to answer questions on a printed form and meet individually with a clinician for a brief screening interview.

As readers know, I stay on the soapbox calling for mental disorders to be given equal parity with ''physical'' disorders in our healthcare system and in how society thinks about them. The reason is that mental disorders are physical disorders, and clinical depression is one of them.

Depression is a disorder in areas of the brain that process thoughts and feelings. It may be due to an imbalance of neurotransmitters or to a flaw in the expression of receptors that the neurotransmitters plug into. When something goes wrong in these brain areas, it cannot help but be reflected in a person's thoughts and feelings.

In the case of depression, you may feel helpless, worthless and hopeless. You may feel like giving up. It's important to realize that these abnormal feelings are not accurate but are part of the depression. It is as if your brain is tricking you, but you can't do anything to stop it. If your brain were working normally, you would not have these morose feelings, and they will fade away when treatment begins to take effect.

Depression can also produce symptoms other than those associated with mood, such as impaired thinking or memory, inability to concentrate, disturbed sleep patterns, fatigue, change in weight or appetite, and other bodily symptoms such as headaches or other pains, digestive problems and sexual dysfunction.

A person with depression can no more cure the condition by an act of will than can a person with diabetes or heart disease. It takes more than that. It takes knowing and using the appropriate therapy.

Depression is more common than high blood pressure. It's twice as common in women as in men. One in eight Americans will be affected by depression during his lifetime. Suicide occurs in about 15 percent of untreated serious depressions.

The tendency to get depression may be inherited. Stressful situations or other environmental factors may trigger it.

A variety of medications are now available to treat depression. They work gradually to correct the brain chemical imbalance and become effective after a few weeks.

If you suffer from depression, it's important to realize that all your thoughts and feelings sift through that gray cloud and come out flawed on the other end. So until treatment lifts the cloud, don't expect too much of yourself. Don't try to make important decisions. Don't expect to snap out of your depression _ people rarely do without treatment. And remember to try very hard not to accept your negative thinking _ realize that it's part of the depression and will disappear as the depression lifts.

If you're a friend or family of a depressed person, the most important thing you can do is help him or her get appropriate treatment. Give your emotional support. Don't accuse the depressed person of being lazy or faking illness or expecting him or her to ''snap out of it.'' Reassure the person that with time and treatment, he or she will feel better. It could be a matter of life or death.

You can call toll-free, (800) 242-2211, to locate the free depression screening site nearest to you for this coming Thursday. Simply press in your zip code and a recording tells you the names of local sites and the phone numbers to call for details.

If you think you might have depression, there's no reason to feel ashamed. It is not your fault. The sooner you treat depression, the better, and it just may save your life.

(Richard Harkness is a consultant pharmacist who writes on health care topics. You can write him at 1224 King Henry Drive, Ocean Springs, MS 39564. His e-mail address is rharkn(at)aol.com. Volume of mail prohibits individual replies; selected letters will be answered in his column.)

(c) 1999, The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.).

Visit The Sun Herald Online at http://www.sunherald.com/

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-10-06-99 1304EDT< -0- By Richard Harkness Knight Ridder Newspapers

15:28 ET N.Y. DOWNPLAYS BIOTERRORISM REPORT
NEW YORK, Oct 11, 1999 (AP Online via COMTEX) -- City officials downplayed a report that suggests the CIA is investigating whether the recent West Nile-like encephalitis outbreak was deliberately triggered by Iraqi bioterrorists. Full Story

15:28 ET NOBEL MEDICINE PRIZE GOES TO GUENTER BLOBEL FOR PROTEIN RESEARCH
STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Oct 11, 1999 (AP Worldstream via COMTEX) -- Dr. Guenter Blobel of The Rockefeller University in New York won the Nobel Prize for medicine Monday for protein research that shed new light on diseases including cystic fibrosis and early development of kidney Full Story

15:28 ET STUTTERING BIRDS COULD AID HUMANS
UPI Science News SEATTLE, Oct. 11 (UPI) _ The colorful zebra finch _ a common pet bird _ could hold the clue for treatment of the estimated 2 million Americans Full Story

15:28 ET KENYA STEPS UP EFFORTS TO ERADICATE POLIO BY 2000
NAIROBI (Oct. 11) XINHUA - The Kenyan government has finalized its plans to conduct this year's polio immunization campaign across the country in a bid to achieve the goal to eradicate the disease by the end of 2000. Full Story

15:28 ET NUMBER OF POSSIBLE E. COLI CASES RISES
LONDON, Ont., Oct 10, 1999 (The Canadian Press via COMTEX) -- The number of people possibly infected by a dangerous strain of E. coli bacteria spread by animals at an annual fair has risen to 41, the Middlesex-London Health Unit says. Full Story

13:48 ET CONGRESS WADES INTO HMO DEBATE
WASHINGTON, Oct 07, 1999 (AP Online via COMTEX) -- The House, preparing for a series of showdown votes on patient protections, confronted the politically charged issue of HMOs and whether injured Americans should be allowed to sue them. Full Story

13:48 ET R.I. FREEZES HMO'S ASSETS
PROVIDENCE, R.I., Oct. 7 (UPI) _ The assets in Rhode Island of New England's largest health maintenance organization have been frozen. Regulators placed the Rhode Island division of the financially troubled Full Story

13:50 ET STUDY: OBESITY CAN SHORTEN LIFESPAN
Oct 06, 1999 (AP Online via COMTEX) --A study of more than 1 million Americans provides the most convincing evidence yet that simply being overweight can cut your life short. Full Story

13:50 ET HOUSE NEARS VOTE ON HEALTH CARE
WASHINGTON, Oct 06, 1999 (AP Online via COMTEX) -- Republicans labored Wednesday to pass a costly package of health care tax breaks and to kill a White House-backed bill to rein in insurance companies as lawmakers clashed in politically charged debate. Full Story


 
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