October is Depression Awareness Month

My last post noted that October was “Disability Awareness Month” and “National Disability Employment Awareness Month.” What I wasn’t aware of at the time is that October is also “Depression Awareness Month.”

The goal of this observance is to focus attention on the symptoms of this mood disorder, its reach and resources that are available to help. The idea is to increase understanding of depression to create a more accepting attitude about it from the public.

A Few Statistics

The statistics about the impact of depression are sobering: According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), 36,035 suicide deaths were reported in the United States in 2008. The rate of suicide has increased since 2000. Nationally, the suicide rate increased 2.6 percent over 2007 to equal 11.8 suicides per 100,000 people. This latest rise places suicide again among the ten leading causes of death in the US for the first time since 1998. This is the highest rate of suicide in fifteen years.

Other facts and figures noted by the AFSP include:

  • Every 14.6 minutes someone in the United States dies by suicide.
  • Nearly 1,000,000 people make a suicide attempt every year.
  • 90% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable and treatable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death.
  • Most people with mental illness do not die by suicide.
  • Recent data puts yearly medical costs for suicide at nearly $100,000,000.00 (2005)
  • Men are nearly 4 times more likely to die by suicide than women.
  • Women attempt suicide 3 times as often as men.
  • Suicide rates are highest for people between the ages of 40 and 59.
  • White individuals are most likely to commit suicide, followed by Native Americans.

Stigma Remains

Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among those 18-25 and only 44 percent seek treatment. The tragedy is that depression is very treatable. For those with severe depression, a combination of therapy and medication is generally effective. Yet people continue to experience depression in silence; in the workplace, many people endure depressive symptoms, afraid their supervisors will find out. With high unemployment rates throughout the U.S., people worry about being passed-over for promotions, considered a liability or getting laid-off.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) states that approximately 18 million people suffer from depression in America alone. Depression does not discriminate across age, race, gender, or class. Among teenagers it is estimated that 20 percent will suffer from depression at some point by the time they reach adulthood. There are also as many as 8.3 percent of teens suffering from depression for at least a year at a time, compared to 5.3 percent of the general population.

More Reasons to Help

Each year in the U.S., there are eleven deaths by suicide for every 100,000 people. The risk is higher for those over 65. Among seniors, the suicide rate is fifteen deaths per 100,000. Many seniors experiencing depression go undiagnosed and untreated because symptoms are too easily dismissed as those of old age. Families and health care professionals need more awareness about depression among the elderly. It affects all of us; eventually.

Support Veterans and Military Personnel

Increasing awareness, about depression is also a way to support Veterans and military members. A 2008 survey found that 10 percent of U.S. Veterans aged 21-29, had one or more episodes of this mood disorder the previous year. Our service men and women deserve disgrace-free, easy to access treatment for depressive symptoms.

A 2003 report prepared by NIH, predicts that by 2020 depression will be the second leading cause of disability world-wide. Stripping depression of its stigma is critical. To see how much you know about depression, take this quiz from WebMD. To learn more visit Myths and Facts About Depression.


WINAHEAD is made up of representatives from thirty institutions. Our members are professionals employed by two- and four-year colleges and universities who work directly with students with disabilities to ensure equal access to higher education. WIN indicates the geographic area we represent: Western Iowa and Nebraska. AHEAD is our national parent organization, the Association on Higher Education and Disability.
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