Trevaughn Henry has secrets, secrets typical of many other 22-year-old men. He enjoys a life of drugs and sex while managing to keep his “good boy” image intact.
There is one secret, however, that Henry struggles to deal with on a daily basis: he was diagnosed with clinical depression in 2006. He did not want his close friends and family to be interviewed for this story because they have not been informed about his diagnosis.
(Trevaughn Henry is a fictional name, used to protect his identity.)
“It’s like a bag of bricks that you carry on your back and hope that it just gets lighter,” Henry says. “Because it will slow you down everywhere you go.”
Clinical depression does slow Henry down. He says there are times when he would spend 15 to 20 hours in bed, too depressed to get up. When the mental disorder is at its peak, the athletic young man would find no interest in his favourite activities which include bike riding and playing basketball.
What makes him so depressed?
“I really don’t know,” says Henry as he scratches his head. Despite the severity of his condition, the university student says he has never considered suicide.
The term depression is very often applied to instances when a person is feeling down or sad, but clinical depression is much more serious than that. Fredrick Carter, a University of Toronto student completing a specialist in psychology, says the disorder occurs when one becomes depressed to the point where his or her daily life is disrupted.
Henry is not alone. Statistics Canada reports on www.statcan.ca that clinical depression affects “one in 50 Canadians at any moment in time, one in 20 in the course of a year and one in 10 in their lifetime.”
While many Canadians suffer from clinical depression, the subject is not very popular among researchers. Few psychologists can expertly comment on this mental disorder.
“It’s hard to diagnose people as clinically depressed since diagnosis is based on what they say and what is observed,” Carter says. “It’s also hard to categorize mental patients since there’s always a comorbidity factor. You can’t really single out a mental patient as suffering from one particular disease because it’s always like a combo.”
Carter says depression is often associated with other clinical problems such as abuse and alcoholism. He says events such as the death of a loved one, frequent moves or neglect may increase the risk of depression.
Henry can relate to some of these factors. He lived the first six years of his life in India before moving to the United States. Shortly after, his family moved to New Zealand and before he could get settled, the family was in motion once again. This latest move brought Henry to Canada in 2003.
“I was an introvert,” Henry recalls. “I always kept to myself and didn’t want to have more than one or two close friends.”
He did not want to have many friends because he knew that very soon he would have to say goodbye. To make things worse – much worse – Henry’s father continues to be an out-of-control alcoholic whose addiction has taken a toll on the family. Henry grew up watching his father’s drunken rampages of endless quarrels and physical fights with his wife, Henry’s mother.
Each time Henry’s life is interrupted by what he calls a burden of bricks on his back, each time he stays in bed for 15 hours, each time he feels hopeless, he is reminded that he was diagnosed with clinical depression.
Like many other sufferers of the disorder, Henry continues to fight it alone, or not fight it at all. He tries to tuck it away, forget it, hide it, keep it at bay, but it refuses to be held down. Still, Henry feels he can handle it alone, but he knows just how difficult a condition it is to live with.
“Medication is important” Carter advices. “In the case of clinical depression, for example, ignoring it could subsequently lead to other problems.”
There is no cure for the disorder, but Carter says antidepressant drugs and psychotherapy can significantly relieve symptoms of the depression or help one cope with issues that may contribute to it.