Be aware and beat those blues

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DEVIN HEILMAN/Press Heritage Health’s acute care director Dr. Michael Meza speaks to residents of Garden Plaza and The Bridge at Post Falls about symptoms, treatment and prevention of depression during a luncheon Thursday.

POST FALLS — The rain poured from the dark gray mid-February sky during Dr. Michael Meza's depression seminar in Garden Plaza Thursday.

"It's a very appropriate day outside with the gloomy weather," Meza said. "That can sometimes get us down."

Meza, who serves as the director of post-acute care at Heritage Health, covered many aspects of the mood disorder during a luncheon attended by about 30 people, many of whom are residents at Garden Plaza or the neighboring Bridge at Post Falls assisted living facility.

"It’s a very important topic. Many people don’t talk about it,” Meza said. “What happens when we don’t talk about it? Things typically get worse."

Meza discussed the variations of depression — and said it is not a simple condition.

"Depression is a mixed bag. It doesn't only come in one flavor," he said. "Many people only think of depression as 'sad,' but it doesn't always show up that way. There are several types of depression that we need to think about when we're making a diagnosis."

One point he made was how depression affects seniors differently from those who are young. Depression in the elderly can be accompanied by physical aches and pains, signs of dementia and an unwillingness to leave the home or go out.

"Depression is probably more prevalent than we think it is,” said Bridge at Post Falls resident Betty Starren, who personally experienced a five-year bout with the disorder. "I was really depressed, I really had a terrible time."

Meza said exact causes are still unknown, but depression can possibly come about because of biological factors, brain chemistry, hormones, inherited traits and circumstantially through traumatic experiences and abuse.

Depression can increase chances for cancer, stroke and heart disease, Meza said. Complications can include excess weight and obesity, substance abuse, anxiety and familial conflicts. It is generally accompanied by feelings of emptiness, sadness, hopelessness and can include angry outbursts.

"It affects how we think, feel and behave," Meza said. "You may have trouble doing day-to-day activities." 

Treatments vary from pharmaceuticals to psychotherapy to electroconvulsive therapy, but Meza said just paying attention, being educated and talking about it can help those who are at risk.

"Depression certainly is not a weakness,” Meza said. “It can be a very common phenomenon that people suffer through. Many people do suffer from depression and there are many people trying to cope with it.”

The depression seminar was one in a series of different topics Garden Plaza and Life Care Center of Post Falls are bringing to their residents.

“What we’re hoping is to get more physicians of different calibers out representing the community in an educational format,” said Jeremy Tolman, executive director of Life Care Center of Post Falls. "It does provide a good service for our residents here at Garden Plaza. There’s not a whole lot of people who are coming out to help the elderly as much as they need to be helped. That’s our point, to provide the information for them so they can have the knowledge at their fingertips.”

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week: 1-800-273-8255.

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