National Depression Awareness Month

October 2021

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What is Depression?

According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), depression, also known as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), is more than just feeling sad or going through a rough patch.

The most common symptoms of depression are: persistent low mood, profound sadness, and/or a sense of despair. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines a major depressive episode as experiencing a saddened mood or loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities accompanied by problems with sleeping, eating, energy, concentration, or self-worth for two weeks or longer. Often, people with depression describe having difficulty getting out of bed, having little to no motivation to do anything, feeling irritable and very sad, and having suicidal thoughts. Depression makes its individuals feel hopeless, distressed, worthless, anxious, and so much more.

If someone you know has several of these symptoms lasting two weeks or more, they need to see a medical professional as soon as possible. Depression is the opposite of simple; it is a complex condition that can affect people of all ages, gender, race, ethnicity, and life situations. Additionally, depression is very hard not only for the individual but for the family and friends as well.


  • More than 264 million people suffer from depression worldwide. (World Health Organization, 2020)
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability in the world. (World Health Organization, 2020)
  • Adolescents aged 12 to 17 years old had the highest rate of major depressive episodes (14.4%) followed by young adults 18 to 25 years old (13.8%). (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association, 2018)
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people between the ages of 10 and 34 (National Institute of Mental Health, 2019)
  • Women are nearly twice as likely as men to have depression. (Centers for Disease Control, 2017)

Additional Facts on Depression:

  • Depression has different triggers. It can stem from a major life event or can happen randomly without any recognizable "cause" at all.
  • Some depression is genetic. Mood disorders, such as depression, tend to run in families. However, this is not the case for everyone.
  • Depression affects your physical body. Frequent headaches, stomach issues, or any other physical symptoms along with mental symptoms are common for those with depression.
  • Individuals with depression may not look depressed. Depression is often called the "hidden illness" for a reason. Some people are good at masking their depression with upbeat and positive attitudes.
  • Exercise can help manage depression. Exercise releases endorphins and can assist in improving our moods.
(National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2017)
What is Depression?


  • Take steps to control stress, increase resilience, and boost self-esteem to help handle issues when they arise
  • Take good care of yourself. Get enough sleep, eat well, and exercise regularly
  • Reach out to family, friends, or other social supports especially in times of crisis
  • Get treatment at the earliest sign of a problem to help prevent depression from worsening

(Mayo Clinic, 2021)

Tips to Improve your Resilience

  • Build strong, positive relationships with family and friends. This can help provide you with needed support and acceptance in good and bad times.
  • Make everyday count! Try to do something each day that gives you a sense of accomplishment. Setting goals can help look forward to the future.
  • Learn from experience. Reflect on how you have coped with difficulties in the past and consider those skills and strategies.
  • Remain hopeful. We cannot change the past, but we can always look forward to the future. Accepting and anticipating change can make it easier to adapt to and assist in viewing new challenges with less worry.
  • Be proactive. Instead of ignoring or repressing any problems, come up with solutions and an action plan.
  • Always take care of yourself. Tend to your own needs and feelings. Participate in hobbies, sports, and activities you enjoy. Practice stress management and relaxation techniques. Eat a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep, and include physical activity in your daily routine.

(Mayo Clinic, 2021)

What Can Schools Do?

  • Educate school staff, parents, and students on symptoms of and help for mental health concerns
  • Help ensure a positive and safe school environment
  • Don't be afraid to talk about mental health
  • Create school support groups to show students they are not alone in their feelings
  • Have students and staff participate in mental health screenings (

Use Your School's Student Assistance Program (SAP) Team

What is SAP?

The Student Assistance Program (SAP) is a team compromised of school staff and a liaison who work together to support students facing barriers to their education.

Anyone can refer a student to SAP when they are concerned about someone's behavior - any school staff, a student's friend, a family member, a community member, or even yourself. Some examples of a SAP referral are:

  • Substance use/vaping
  • Changes in mood
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Self-harming
  • Feelings of anxiety or constant worry
  • Family issues
  • Behavioral concerns

You can refer someone to SAP for any barrier to their education - it does not have to just be the listed concerns. Your school's SAP team is there to assist and support students and families.

What SAP Can Offer:

  • short-term one-on-one problem solving services including but not limited to: follow up from a crisis, follow up on a former SAP case, support for re-entry into school, substance use policy violation, support while waiting for community counseling services
  • Groups! These groups are: psycho-educational and age appropriate. Some examples of groups are: Friendship Skills, Anger Management, Career Choices, Healthy Decision Making, Coping Skills, Addiction Education, Grief & Loss, Children of an Addict, and many more. Ask your school's SAP counselor if you are looking for a specific group topic!

How Do I Find the SAP Team?

To reach out to your SAP team, contact your school counselor, teacher, principal, etc. You can also go to your school's website and see if your SAP liaison is listed there.

Helping Someone with Depression

Suicide and Depression

Suicide is often associated with depression. If you or someone you know is thinking about hurting themselves, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

Also consider these options if you are having suicidal thoughts:

  • Call your mental health professional, primary care doctor, or other health care provider
  • Call a suicide hotline. In the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or use its chat services at
  • Call Lenape Valley Foundation mobile crisis services: 1-800-499-7455
  • Reach out to a close friend or a loved one

If someone you know is in danger of attempting suicide or is expressing thoughts and feelings related to suicide:

  • Make sure someone stays with that person
  • Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately
  • Contact local crisis services or the individual's existing clinical supports
  • If someone you know has made a suicide attempt and if you can do it safely, take that person to the nearest hospital emergency room immediately.

Never ignore comments or concerns about suicide. Always take action to get help.

The Difference Between Mental Health Crisis vs. Emergency:

Mental Health Emergency - a life threatening situation in which an individual is imminently threatening harm to self or others, severely disoriented or out of touch with reality, has a severe inability to function, or is otherwise distraught and out of control.

Examples of a mental health emergency include but not limited to:

  • Acting on a suicide threat
  • Homicidal or threatening behavior
  • Self-injury needing immediate medical attention
  • Severely impaired by drugs or alcohol
  • Highly erratic or unusual behavior that indicates very unpredictable behavior and/or an inability to care for themselves


Mental Health Crisis - a non-life threatening situation in which an individual exhibits extreme emotional disturbance or behavioral distress, considering harm to self or others, disoriented or out of touch with reality, has a compromised ability to function, or is otherwise agitated and unable to be calmed.

Examples of a mental health crisis include but are not limited to:

  • Talking about suicide threats
  • Talking about threatening behavior
  • Self-injury, but not needing medical attention
  • Highly erratic or unusual behavior
  • Emotionally distraught, very depressed, angry or anxious

(Detective Nick Margiotta, M.ED., Erica Chestnut-Ramirez, MC, LISAC, 2021)

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