Depression: Treatment Works and Recovery is Possible

John, an Army Veteran who served for 14 years, sought help for depression after having thoughts of suicide.

“It just got to the point where I consistently felt like my life was out of control and that I was more or less a victim of my life rather than living it,” John says.

Everyone experiences sadness, irritability, or low energy from time to time, but these feelings usually pass. Depression is different. If you have depression, it can be hard to do everyday activities. You might focus on what’s not going well in your life and have trouble seeing the positive. Perhaps you don’t feel pleasure in the activities, people, and things you used to enjoy.

It was the constant worrying about his career that started to create distance between John and his family.

“It gets harder and harder to go outside. You start to feel sick; you don’t want to go,” he says. “You don’t ever want to do anything except for maybe one or two activities that you engage in for stress relief.”

Some Veterans experience depression because of the loss of someone close to them, like a loved one or a buddy from their unit. Others might feel depressed after losing or changing jobs. When this sadness lasts for more than a few weeks or is seriously impacting your life, it may be a sign of depression.

“Every task that came up seemed like it was almost impossible,” John says. “I would accomplish it, but I dreaded every new deadline that would come up. I was a high-functioning person with major depression for several years.”

Take the next step: Make the connection.

Every day, Veterans who served in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard connect with proven resources and effective treatments for depression and find solutions that improve their lives. It can be difficult to handle depression on your own, so talking to your family and friends can be a first step.

For John, frequent thoughts of suicide led him to reach out for help. After checking himself in to inpatient care and attending a 30-day intensive outpatient program, he hit a turning point.

“I found an ability to have joy and to appreciate beauty … like my son — being able to appreciate just having him around and seeing him develop, [and] seeing the nice things that my wife does for me,” he says.

Like John, you can find resources to help you overcome depression. Consider connecting with:

  • Your doctor. Ask if your doctor has experience treating Veterans or can refer you to someone who does. If you feel comfortable enough with your physician, he or she may be able to help you find tools to manage loss of interest or pleasure even without direct experience with Veterans.
  • A mental health professional, such as a therapist
  • Your local VA medical center or Vet Center. VA specializes in the care and treatment of Veterans.
  • A spiritual or religious adviser

“We take ownership, in the Army, of our organization and our institution’s needs. And we derive self-worth from the realization of our goals,” John says. “You have to be willing to put those things down to get help.”

No matter what you may be experiencing, find support for getting your life on a better track.