NORTHAMPTON — The biggest danger with depression, said Karin Jeffers, chief executive officer of Clinical & Support Options in Northampton, is when people underestimate the impact it can have on the person suffering.
People often “think it’s not their place to get involved,” she said, “when in fact the best thing to do is show somebody there is support, and help to get someone the resources they need.”
Clinical & Support Options runs a 24-hour program offering services to anyone experiencing severe depression or suicidal thoughts, or to anyone who is concerned about a family member or friend. It never closes.
Warning signs of depression, she said, include changes in behavior such as withdrawing from social interactions, lack of energy, loss of interest in things one used to be interested in, as well as making statements about wanting to hurt oneself. Children suffering from a mental illness, she said, can exhibit an increase in aggression, withdrawal from friends and an increased fear of social situations.
Young people, she noted, often cannot identify signs of depression in themselves, they “just know they don’t feel good,” she said, so it is especially important for adults to be aware. Children can exhibit signs of depression as young as 6 years old, she said.
Mental illnesses also include anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder and others, said Bernice Drumheller, president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Western Massachusetts in Agawam. These are medical conditions that can disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood and ability to relate to others, she said.
“Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are brain-based conditions that often result in a variety of symptoms that can affect daily living,” Drumheller said in an email in response to questions from the Gazette.
At least one in four adults and one in 10 children across the country experience a mental health disorder, she said.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Western Massachusetts offers support groups in Northampton, Westfield, Springfield, Orange and Agawam.
The most important thing about addressing a mental health problem, Jeffers said, is that it should be treated like any other medical condition. She likened treating depression to treating a broken bone.
“People shouldn’t feel ashamed or stigmatized,” she said. “We really encourage people to seek that support.”
∎ Clinical & Support Options’ crisis services numbers are (413) 586-5555 and (800) 322-0424 for Hampshire County and (413) 774-5411 and (800) 562-0112 for Franklin County. For the full list Clinical & Support Options’ services, visit the organization’s website at www.csoinc.org.
∎ The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Western Massachusetts offers a support group in Northampton on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Burger King meeting room (side entrance of restaurant), 344 King St. (Route 5). For more information, contact Carol at 527-0532.
∎ The Greenfield Support Group is held the last Wednesday of every month from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Clinical Support Options Administration/Outpatient Services office at 1 Arch Place. For more information, contact Daris at 824-1044.
∎ Call the National Alliance on Mental Illness toll free at (800) 295-2121 for guidance on navigating the mental healthcare system. More information is available on the National Alliance on Mental Illness website at www.namiwm.org.