WAIKOLOA VILLAGE — As the holiday season fast approaches, depression can increase for those struggling with the disorder.
Although Hawaii ranks No.22 out of the 52 states highest in mental health issues, nearly 250,000 adults here wrestle with anxiety or depression daily, according to the Hawaii State Department of Health.
On a larger scale, in February 2017, the World Health Organization released statistics that globally more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression, also the leading cause of disability worldwide and a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.
Alicemarie O’Neill, a Waikoloa Village resident since 2013, is the author of “The Formula: Seven Steps for Healing from Depression and Manic Depression.” Published last year, the book discusses depression, what causes it and how people can regain control of their lives using a holistic approach with attention to mind, body and spirit.
O’Neill talks from experience as a survivor of four major depressive breakdowns in 20 years. Her first full blown episode occurred when she was 32 and the last one was when she was 50, in 2003.
With a background as a mental health counselor, she is also an astrologer and a spiritual counselor. She worked through her depression using traditional and non-traditional approaches and helps others figure out what best works for them.
“Stress is an insidious factor in most major illnesses. It is no different with depression or manic depression,” O’Neill said. “I am genetically predisposed. The reason, I was told, that it occurred in me and not other family members depends on many factors — stress being the greatest factor.”
Once thought of as a singular issue, depression wears many different hats.
“There are many types of depression; each has its own way into our lives,” O’Neill said. “For instance, there is depression associated with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), postpartum depression, seasonal affective disorder related to lack of sunlight, depression that begins after a loss, depression in older adults, adolescent onset depression thought related to hormones and extreme stress, bipolar depression and major clinical depression, which can happen at any age.”
Depression can begin as a low mood that doesn’t get better, rather it gets worse and worse.
“Mentally, the brain chemicals are out of balance,” O’Neill said. “The physical brain of someone who is depressed looks different from a healthy brain in MRI imaging. Physically, one has very little energy, no hope, either lack of appetite or eats too much. Usually they sleep too much and is very pessimistic.”
Among adolescents, factors can include changes in hormones, the need to fit in, to be included, peer pressure, as well as family and school pressures to excel. In older adults, there is the financial factor, where they have to work well past retirement just to get by, O’Neill said.
“There is also the sense of a lack of purpose/meaning in life,” she added.
The book is divided into three sections. The first is an introduction to depression, her struggle and what an episode involves. In part two, she addresses seven steps she has found can heal depression: stabilizing; mental alchemy (thought work); mental and emotional exercises; dealing with the physical world; routines and responsibilities; social contacts; mindfulness and meditation.
Section three ties everything together by looking at the bigger picture and purpose, which may entail helping others.
To survive recurring breakdowns, O’Neill advised, “Seek that which works. In other words, not resisting medications, staying open to counseling and doing whatever is necessary to heal.”
The holidays tend to be especially difficult for people struggling with depression.
“They feel very alone; and they may be alone too much,” O’Neill said. “There may have been an incident in the past associated with the holidays. A person will re-live the pain and not release it. There may be an issue of loss around the holidays, such as death of a loved one. The holidays exacerbate the loss.”
For shame and grief, O’Neill said they can be overcome, “By succeeding, healing; with determination; reaching out and helping others; and realizing that everyone is fighting their own battle, often one that we cannot see.”
Info: For a glimpse into “The Formula: Seven Steps for Healing from Depression and Manic Depression,” go to www.amazon.com/Formula-Seven-Steps-Healing-Depression-ebook/dp/B01IFSF5DK