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Emotional health check-in: How to stay physically sharp by staying mentally sound

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Depression is a common state that many experience, but only some discuss. In fact, major depressive disorder is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States.


According to the National Institute of Mental Health, "depression (major depressive disorder or clinical depression) is a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks".


Depression comes in many forms and can last for various timeframes. Some variations include:

·        Bipolar disorder: different from depression, but those with this disorder experience major depression episodes, called "bipolar depression" then experience

·        Perinatal: extreme depression and exhaustion that can inhibit mothers from properly caring for their babies; more serious than the "baby blues"

·        Psychotic: severe depression on top of having delusions/hallucinations 

·        Seasonal affective disorder: typically emerges during winter months when there is less sunlight and goes away during spring and summer; usually accompanied by social withdrawal, increased sleep, and weight gain.


Depression affects people of all races, genders, and social class.


Olympic swimmer Allison Schmitt became a mental health advocate during 2016 when she spoke out about her struggle with depression. Schmitt told The Today Show that she may be all smiles after medaling in the 2016 Rio Olympics, but there was a time where victory seemed far out of reach.


"When I woke up in the morning, I would look forward to going back to bed. As soon as my alarm went off, I knew that it's time for practice. But my thoughts were, 'Okay when can I get back into bed," said Schmitt.


After Schmitt went from Olympic gold medalist to not making the national championship swim team for three consecutive years after, she became depressed.


"I was failing every time I dove into the pool...A place that I loved, a sport that I loved. [I would] dive in every time and fail, what I thought was failing. I didn't know what else to do," Schmitt said.


Schmitt said a major wakeup call came when she heard that her 17-year-old cousin April committed suicide. April was a young woman who Schmitt said had a very promising future, and just returned from touring a Division 1 school.


"If there was one thing I could say, is — if I knew and [could] help her and let her know that there was a light at the end of the tunnel," Schmitt said.


Schmitt believes that the mental effects of being an athlete was a blessing and a curse when it comes to her tenacity.


“We’re taught at a young age to push through, to persevere through anything, so I think we use that mentality all through life,” said Schmitt. “Now I think that you can never get through life alone.”


Schmitt credits longtime friend and her coach, family, and friends like fellow USA swimmer Michael Phelps as the reason why she was able to get out of the dark place she was in.


Although there are universal treatment strategies, there is no "one-size-fits-all" depression treatment plan. Since everyone experiences depression differently, each individual will have a different treatment plan that is unique to their condition.


If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, it is important to remember that there is help and suffering from depression is very common. The National Institute of Mental Health advises that if a loved one is struggling with depression, never ignore suicidal comments, invite them to outings outside of the house, and offer them hope.


Photo via Today.