Depression and Deaf People: We recently had several requests to do a post specifically on depression and Deaf people. Depression is something that many of us may experience at one point or another during our lives. It’s important to know that being Deaf itself is not a cause of depression. Being Deaf people in a hearing-centered society, however, can put Deaf people slightly more at risk for depression than hearing people. This is true for almost any minority group. The more oppressed, powerless, or unequal people feel, the greater the chance they will experience depression or any other mental health issue (See ASC’s post on mental health and social injustices).
How Do You Know if It’s Depression?: Depression is more than just a bad mood, sadness, or an upset reaction to bad grade or a break-up. Clinical depression is different in the sense that the depressed mood lasts longer than two weeks and the symptoms are much more intense, interfering with school, work, relationships, and responsibilities. Symptoms of depression can include some or all of the following: constant feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or worthlessness; significant weight loss or gain; sleeping more or less than usual; difficulty concentrating; loss of interest in life’s pleasures; agitation or restlessness; thinking about suicide or making plans for suicide. Sometimes people may attempt to mask these symptoms of depression by over-using alcohol or other drugs, in an effort to “self-medicate”. For an in-depth signed presentation on depression, see this link.
Causes: There are many possible causes of depression. Some of these are: major life events such as moving, divorce, empty-nest, or the death of someone important to you; chemical imbalances; post-partum depression; peri- or post-menopausal depression; traumatic experiences; and certain medical conditions. Deaf people may experience job-related depression, especially when isolation, communication difficulties, discrimination, or lack of opportunity for employment or promotion exist. Other potential triggers for depression in Deaf people can include disappointment in a child’s hearing or Deaf status, difficulties with communication in Deaf-hearing families, issues related to cochlear implants, and identity issues. In addition, Deaf people with Usher Syndrome may experience depression when dealing with deteriorating vision.
What Can You Do About Depression?: The good news about depression is that it does go away when you make an effort to do something about it and there are many things you can do about depression. If the trigger is not obvious, the first thing to do is get a physical check-up, to rule out any possible medical causes. Next, making sure you eat, sleep, and exercise properly is very important. Sharing your feelings with people close to you can be worthwhile. Psychotherapy can help you sort out feelings and identify your options for making changes. As a last resort, anti-depressant medication can be helpful in getting through the worst of the depression. Take control of your depression, instead of letting it control you.