I am not a psychologist. I am not trained to treat depression. But I do have two angles that I believe makes me qualified to talk about this subject on a sports blog. First, part of my job is to identify possible depression and refer to those qualified to treat it. Second, depression continues to be a big part of my life personally.Depression isn’t just for people who are gloomy. It’s not just for "emo’s" It’s not something that you throw prozac at until it goes away. Depression isn’t something that you can just snap out of. There is a social stigma against depression, which only makes this national epidemic worse.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a study two months ago that estimated that 9% of Americans are currently afflicted with depression. And 3.4% are showing symptoms of major depressive episodes. I am in that 9%. My wife has been in that 3.4%. Depression is a major issue in America. And we need to pay more attention to it.
One thing to know is the symptoms. The CDC lists eight common symptoms of depression in their study:
1) "little interest or pleasure in doing things" or
2) "feeling down, depressed, or hopeless."
) "trouble falling asleep or staying asleep or sleeping too much,"
) "feeling tired or having little energy,"
) "poor appetite or overeating,"
) feeling bad about yourself or that you were a failure or let yourself or your family down,"
) "trouble concentrating on things, such as reading the newspaper or watching television," and
) "moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed . . . or the opposite: being so fidgety or restless that you were moving around a lot more than usual.
Another thing to know is that depression just doesn’t happen, it’s caused by triggers. Some of those triggers are outside of our control. Some are within our control. Some possible triggers can be:
Death of a loved one / spouse
Loss of job / unemployment
Chronic physical illness / chronic pain
Moving house / loss of social contacts
Chronic conflicts at work
Chronic alcohol or drug abuse
Being the victim of a crime or accident (see PTSD)
If you are experiencing some of these symptoms and have some of these triggers, I recommend seeing someone who is trained to help with depression. See a psychologist, or even your doctor.
If someone you know is exhibiting these symptoms and has these triggers, you need to take an active role in helping them. Because depression is a tough spiral to break out of on your own. Sometimes it is impossible. Because depression begets more depression. Some have fallen down this spiral so far that they cannot get out without significant intervention.
But all too often, those who are depressed are able to wear good masks. I speak from experience. We can put on a good face, make sure our symptoms can’t be seen by others, and do ourselves even more damage by letting the spiral take us further down.
So what does this have to do with the Blazers?
Look at that trigger list again. Death of a loved one? Maurice Lucas. Chronic illness or pain? Brandon Roy, Greg Oden, and how many other players who have been injured or missed time to injury. Chronic conflicts at work? How about losing six straight games.
Now look at the symptoms list. Feeling down, depressed or hopeless? How about not being able to answer the coach when he asks what went wrong. Feeling tired or having little energy? Wearing out before the game is over. Having those second half shots hit the front of the rim, if that. Feeling bad about yourself or that you were a failure or let yourself or your family down? Rampant. Trouble concentrating on things? Check. Moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed? Yeah, we’ve noticed.
I do not know if the players are undergoing depression. I’m neither qualified, nor in a position to make that assessment. But it seems likely that this is what is happening, given what we know.
So I think the last thing this team needs is to get its head coach fired. That would only spin the spiral faster. The members of this team need to spend a lot of time with their psychologists and doctors. Because intervention is needed. Outside help is needed. And this isn’t something that solves itself overnight. Maybe the whole season gets chalked up as a loss.
But this is also the team that won 50 games last season when things were less depressing. This team has talent. This team has shown that it can win close games. But in its mental state, I think we’re lucky to have games as close as they are. And maybe that is a good place for a trained professional to start.