By: Merideth Smith, M.S., Psychology Intern and Laura J. Peters, Ph.D., Staff Psychologist
Although adults with vision impairment are at an increased risk for depression, there are steps that can help someone cope with the symptoms of depression. Engaging in vision loss rehabilitation can help individuals feel more capable and in control of their lives. Seeking out social support through family, friends, organizations, or support groups can be very effective in improving quality of life and can help with the adjustment to changes in health. Rehabilitation can also support people's ability to resume pleasurable activities that they have abandoned due to their sight loss. Engaging in pleasurable activities can improve a person’s mood. Exercising on a regular basis can also help with problems with sleeping or feelings of fatigue.
However, sometimes the depression is severe and significantly interferes with a person’s life. People with depression can even have thoughts of hurting or killing themselves. This is referred to as suicidal ideation. In fact, white males over the age of 85 have the highest rates of death by suicide, 45 deaths out of 100,000. Unfortunately, this population is also the least likely to seek help if they experience depression. A national hot line is available for individuals who have suicidal thoughts, or for family and friends who are concerned about a loved one. This hot line can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
For additional information please see the website: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.
When depression becomes this crippling, professional help may be needed. Currently there are effective forms of treatment for individuals who are experiencing depression and these treatments continue to improve with ongoing research. Treatment can take the form of psychotherapy, which can include talking about stressors, learning to use healthy coping strategies, improving relationships, or learning to incorporate pleasurable activities back into everyday life. Antidepressant medications can also be used to effectively treat depression. These medications do take time to work and the first medication you try may not be effective. There are several different types of antidepressant medications, so do not give up if the first medication is ineffective. It is important to communicate with your doctor if you experience side-effects or do not notice a change in mood after 3 to 4 weeks.
Depression can be physically and mentally debilitating and adults with vision impairment are at an increased risk. However, there are effective resources and treatments that can improve mood and give the person the skills necessary to successfully adapt to these significant life changes. If you notice you or someone you love have prolonged periods of sadness, loss of pleasure, or depression, do not hesitate to talk with your doctor.