More than 16 million Americans live with major depression. Recognizing you may need professional help is the first step to living a healthy life.

Jim Hill was diagnosed with depression after attempting suicide. That was a wake-up call.

Jim found professional help and, with therapy and medications, he’s managing his depression and reclaiming his life. Someone with depression experiences symptoms – both mental and physical – that last for at least two weeks without a break. This is called a depressive episode.

Isolation is an element of Claudine Jackson’s ongoing battle with depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. How she coped with this symptom was by joining a social club for people with mental illness.

Claudine’s mental illness stems from traumatic abuse she suffered as a child.

Trauma is just one of the risk factors that can lead to depression. The way your brain is wired, other medical or mental health conditions, substance abuse and family history may also come into play.

In between depressive episodes, you might not experience any symptoms at all. It’s up to you - and those close to you - to pay attention, watching for any changes that might point to the start of a depressive episode. Michelle Wojcik knows how important that support is for spotting symptoms.

Michelle has been dealing with depression since she was a child. Eventually she found medications that helped her get better. But she still has to pay close attention to the reappearance of any symptoms. Isolation, she says, is a red flag that tells her to call her therapist.

If depression goes untreated, it can lead to other serious health problems like substance abuse and obesity. In the most severe cases, people may feel their only way to escape the symptoms of depression is suicide.

It’s important not to let embarrassment or judgment be a barrier to getting help. Depression is common. Finding a mental health therapist to help you learn how to manage your depression can give you your life back.

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