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      The realities of depression

      There are several resources available locally for those struggling with depression

      Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.

      According to the National Institute of Mental Health, it affects more than 19 million Americans.

      "Typically people don't wake up one morning and decide to be depressed. Depression is a progressive illness, usually occurs gradually," said Chuck Johnson, an administrative coordinator with Blessing Behavioral Center and also a licensed clinical professional counselor.

      Johnson said depression is a medical illness, just like diabetes or a heart condition.

      He said because of stigmas attached to it, people do not look at depression that way.

      Another local expert agrees.

      "It's not a weakness, not a character disorder, it's a medical problem," said Barbara Chapin of Transitions of Western Illinois.

      A problem both Chapin and Johnson said is treatable.

      Signs of depression can include: lack of sleep, lack of appetite, losing interest in things you usually enjoy, erratic mood swings, thoughts of suicide, or feelings of helplessness.

      Depression is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain.

      While there is not a cure, the disorder is treatable through counseling, medication or a combination of both.

      Resources are available in our community like Blessing Behavioral Center and Transitions.

      There are also online resources that can connect you to help.

      "People can and do get better, we have about an 89-percent success rate with depression and you can pair that with people coming into our emergency room with a heart attack and our success rate is much lower," Johnson said.

      "People need to realize people can and do get better."

      Both Johnson and Chapin wanted to reiterate that if you are feeling down, please reach out.

      Also, keep in mind that depression is treatable and sometimes a smile is all someone needs.

      Below are links to resources for depression.

      To reach the 24 Hour Daily, Confidential Crisis and Suicide Prevention Hotline, call (217) 222-1166 or 1-800-779-4357.

      Illinois residents can contact the Blessing Behavioral Center at 1-800-222-9913, and Missouri or Iowa residents can call 1-800-222-9914 Missouri and Iowa.

      You can also learn more about It Only Takes One, a suicide-prevention awareness campaign in Illinois, at its website here.