Longevity Project Part III: Dealing with depression
Suicide Crisis and Mental Health Help ResourcesHope Center crisis line: 970-925-5858Mind Springs crisis line: 844-493-8255Aspenstrong.org: mental health servicesMantherapy.org: For men onlyColorado Crisis Services: 844-493-8255 or text TALK to 38255National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
In 2011, Ashley Mauldin moved from a city with more than 165,000 residents to one with fewer than 5,000.
Relocating from Fort Collins to New Castle proved stressful on its own, but Mauldin — just 27 years old at the time — also was suffering from postpartum depression following the birth of her first child.
“It was extremely isolating,” Mauldin said. “You feel like you’re the only one.”
A licensed professional counselor, Mauldin attempted to meet new people and make meaningful connections by joining groups such as the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association. However, opening up about postpartum depression did not seem appropriate at events oftentimes centered on the local business community.
“Those aren’t the places you usually talk about those things,” said Mauldin. “Having those outside connections, those day-to-day ‘me-too’ moments with people … that’s really hard not having that.”
Mauldin recalled seeing social media posts from new moms about the joys of motherhood, and questioned why she did not feel the same. Instead, Mauldin felt depressed, shameful and doubted her abilities as a mom.
“You see things on social media where people say, ‘I love being a mom,’ and ‘Being a mom is so great,’ and I am over here thinking, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have done this,’” Mauldin said.
“‘Maybe I am not mom material.’ You start to really create some deep shame about yourself.”
Eventually, Mauldin visited a therapist and wrote a two-page list of everything she hated.
Despite living in a beautiful area, being surrounded by a supportive family, and working in a field she was passionate about, Mauldin’s depression blinded her from all of the good.
“You really get these lenses on of, ‘Everything is terrible, everybody is terrible, life is terrible, the world is terrible,’ and it is hard to get out of that place,” Mauldin said. “It’s almost like you create a relationship with your depression, and it’s hard to let go of it because you have invested so much into it.”
Striking a Conversation: Mental Health for the ages
HOW SOCIETY VIEWS DEPRESSION
“Society tells you that if things are going well and you have everything that society perceives you should have, then there is something bad about you if you are depressed,” said Dr. Jason Andersen, Mind Springs Health Chief Medical Officer.
“Sometimes you just can’t help it.”
Annually, one in 15 adults cannot help being depressed according to the American Psychiatric Association, and one in six people will experience depression at some point in their lives.
Biologically-based depression typically manifests during a person’s late teens and early 20s or late 50s and early 60s. However, depression can develop at any age and may include symptoms ranging from trouble sleeping and loss of energy to thoughts of feeling guilty and contemplating suicide.
“When somebody develops depression and when they seek treatment for it are often two different things,” said Andersen. “Sadly, even for severe depression, a lot of people never seek help.”
Some say nearly half of those who experience depression will never seek help, Andersen said.
If untreated, depression has the potential to change the brain, spinal chord, and the way in which the body reacts to stress, Andersen explained.
Since 2015, 58 people died by suicide in Garfield County — 83 percent men and 17 percent women. Of those 58 people, nearly half were diagnosed with depression.
Depending upon the study, women can exhibit symptoms of depression up to four times the rate of men.
While women attempt suicide more frequently, men follow through with suicide at higher rates and remain less likely to seek treatment.
Now 35, Mauldin’s struggles with postpartum depression and depression inspired her to start the group Daring Women in 2018.
Whether rafting on the Colorado River or conversing over a glass of wine, the community organization meets monthly and invites women to share with those willing to listen and connect.
“It’s vulnerable for me having postpartum depression to say, ‘I actually hate being a mom,’” Mauldin said. “We don’t like to talk about that because we worry, well, what are people going to think.”
“But, once you start talking about it, you get people coming in that say, ‘I’ve actually felt that way, too.’ …You start to get empathy from people and connection.”
Daring Women does not exclusively focus on depression but rather a variety of issues. Open to all women, the community organization strives to build connectivity and develop meaningful relationships through honest conversations.
“We all have our struggles,” Mauldin said. “Daring Women is for anybody looking for connection or feeling a lack of connection; anybody who feels lonely or anybody who wants to have a good time and work on themselves. I label the group as growth-minded for people who are looking to become a better version of themselves.”
Emily Supino, Aspen Strong’s acting executive director, stressed the importance of promoting healthy mental hygiene and connecting the community to available resources.
One tool the nonprofit organization offers includes free mental health screenings through its website, aspenstrong.org, and at community events that it hosts regularly.
“They are quick, they are anonymous, and they are meant to be educational. They are not diagnostic,” Supino said of the screenings, which include tests for depression, post-traumatic stress, generalized anxiety and other mental health issues.
Following a screening, Aspen Strong provides numerous resources based upon each individual’s needs.
“We have a community calendar of events, classes and support groups that are taking place across the (Roaring Fork) Valley, and then we also have a provider directory so we can link them to a directory of about 90 providers from Aspen to Parachute.”
Supino pointed out how people oftentimes go out of their way to assist those with physical ailments and believed those suffering from mental health issues deserved the same consideration.
“We have a tendency as a society to think that mental health is private and we shouldn’t ask about it,” Supino said. “That is part of the problem and that feeds into that negative stigma.”
“We should be totally fine asking people how they are doing and when they respond that they are not OK, we should be able to have an empathetic response.”
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Out of Tuesday’s Longevity discussion came a few key takeaways about how to maintain a positive mental well-being, and to help others do the same.