Tips for Identifying Depression

Today’s post was written by Jason Kaefer, a case manager in Caminar's New Ventures Program with years of experience in human services. He also writes extensively on the use of coping skills to support independence, mindfulness, and happiness to those struggling with mental illness. He also recently contributed the post Energize Your Diet to our blog.


Identifying depression in yourself or a loved one can be difficult. Understand that the symptoms are sneaky; not every person reveals consistent signs with one another, signs that are unusual and downright frustrating, and may force you to think they're symptoms of something else altogether. For example, a person who exhibits anger and irritability would, by most onlookers, be classified as "some jerk" who needs anger management. Many folks will live with this issue assuming their lives are stagnant and the dramatic emotions, whether highs and lows or irritability, will remain with them and should best be lived with rather than being dealt with. But this doesn't have to be you or anyone you know and love. Depression manifests in a variety of ways: 
There's tired, and then there's TIRED. I'm sure you know the difference, and then there's fatigue. Fatigue will leave you feeling as though your muscles have been subjected to shock therapy for seven hours followed by mental, muscular, and marrow-deep exhaustion. Certain exhaustion can be attributed to an overworked schedule, stress, and lack of sleep, and often is abolished after returning to a healthy sleep cycle. But if you find that you're tired with no reason, or still tired after 7-8 hours of sleep, be aware of the link between depression and fatigue. According to ZME Science, "Depression affects appetite and sleep — both vital to generating and replenishing energy. In most cases, patients report insomnia and getting less sleep, though an overabundance will also ruin your mood and energy levels."
Loss of interest
This is where it gets blurry; people lose interest all the time. Teenagers, for example, enter and exit phases the way ocean tides recede and return. A person's grooming and hygiene should be noted. If depression is suspected, a person might neglect their hygiene as well as bathing habits. Loss of interest in sex, social gatherings, and other activities the individual may have been heavily invested in should be examined. It's important to understand the difference between temporary and long-term loss of interest. Lack of interest may also lead to little to no motivation in exploring new possibilities in life, which is why a friend or loved one should remain diligent in following up on such changes.
When a friend or a family member becomes irritable with you, it may often be a cause unrelated to the situation, and is often dismissed as a bad day and won't be revisited for some time. Most often there is a relatable cause. There are, however, links between anger and depression. According to Psychology Today, individuals with depression experience intense inner conflict that often results in angry outbursts. "Getting angry at these ‘voices’ can be liberating, but that means getting in touch with our core feelings of anger rather than aiming it at ourselves. For example, when we may feel angry at the cruel way we treat ourselves today, we’re in touch with our adaptive anger, and we feel like we’re on our own side. Letting ourselves feel and express adaptive anger can help us feel less burdened, freer, and more in touch with our real self."
Suicidal Thoughts
The most serious predicament is suicidal thoughts. If you or anyone you know are experiencing suicidal thoughts, seek help immediately. The National Suicide Hotline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7 trained assistance to de-escalate and prevent crises. For more information, also check out the LifeLine link

These symptoms can be difficult to spot. If you believe you or a loved one are experiencing depression, reach out and stay connected. Make socializing a priority, no matter hard it seems. Many people with depression tend to isolate as it gets worse. Know that help is just a call away. You don’t need to be alone. For example, a doctor can direct you toward possible medication, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), as well as support groups.
This post has been peer reviewed. 

Energize Your Diet

For today's post, we welcome Jason Kaefer, a case manager in Caminar's New Ventures Program with years of experience in human services. He also writes extensively on the use of coping skills to support independence, mindfulness, and happiness to those struggling with mental illness.  


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Protecting your mental health should be your first priority. To overcome barriers related to mental illness, you need support, you need coping skills, and, above all, you need good physical health. How often have you felt incapable of waking up at 6 a.m. to catch the bus clear across town? Many people experience this in the morning or feel sluggish toward the afternoon, and in response, tend to do the same thing: grab the coffee pot, open an energy drink, or employ our talent of keeping our eyes peeled while allowing our brain to fade away. Don't worry! There is hope!

The solution may be in your diet. To start, make a list of what you typically consume for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Got it? Each item below may give you higher levels of energy during the day and you can substitute them for your current food.

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds provide natural energy, sometimes even better than coffee, depending what you mix them in. The ancient Aztecs used them to sustain energy, so as you may have guessed, the plant is native to Mexico, but these tasty seeds can be found in any market or grocery store, and go great in yogurt, protein, and milkshakes. They are also low calories and have a nutty flavor. Try them out! Decide what you have already in your house (yogurt, peanut butter, etc.), and create something. Check out this blog post for a more extensive list of chia seed ideas.

Green Tea

Unfortunately, everywhere we go, coffee is readily available to us. It serves as the perfect morning fix, elevates mood, and even contains antioxidants. But coffee, however tasty and healthy, does come at a price when your body has had enough. The "jitters," upset stomach, and an increase in mental health symptoms are common after one too many cups of joe.

Try replacing coffee with green tea. Thymine is a natural compound that occurs in green tea, which keeps you focused and alert without experiencing the "jitters." Green tea also, in my opinion, tastes much better than coffee and energy drinks. 


Aside from being advantageous for your heart, nuts are a wonderful source of protein and healthy fats. Consider having a bag of them to keep with you during the day for when you get hungry. This, in conjunction with a bottle of water, may help to sustain energy levels. You can also blend nuts into yogurt or protein.

Understand, however, that nuts can cause severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis). If you have an allergy to nuts, you should avoid them all together and keep an epinephrine pen on you. If you suspect an allergy, visit your doctor and request an allergy test. 


Bananas are cheap, easy to find, and full of glucose, which is perfect for anyone who is physically active. Try two bananas for breakfast with oatmeal and two glasses of water. There is a notable difference between this and cereal. Another idea, if you own a blender, is to blend a banana with milk, yogurt, protein, and the above-mentioned chia seeds.


This is something that I stress daily: Water is key to life, or in this case, energy. Lack of energy can be attributed to dehydration. Signs of dehydration include a decrease in focus, rapid heart rate, and irritability. It's also important to remember to drink water first thing in the morning.

A good way to measure your water intake is to take your body weight and divide it by two. This is the amount of water you should consume in ounces per day. Water also promotes weight loss and flushes out toxins. If you are active, consider having several bottles of water with you during the day. It's easy for us to become sidetracked and allow our bodies to dehydrate.


A perfect post-lunch snack that's high in fiber is blueberries. They are also loaded with potassium, folate, vitamin C, and Vitamin B6. For being so small, they are loaded with nutrients and are great for restoring energy. Studies have shown that blueberries may be good for weight loss due to their nutritious profile.

According to the US National Library of Medicine, "Blueberries are one of the best sources of antioxidants. One study in China compared the antioxidant capacity of blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries and found that blueberries not only contained the highest total antioxidant capacity but also contained more of many specific types of antioxidants, including phenols, flavonoids, and anthocyanins."

Don't allow yourself to become overwhelmed. It takes time to readjust your diet so that it works for you. Remember, what you put in your body will reflect the way you feel during the day. Begin by considering what food in your diet needs replacing, then find the above-mentioned foods at your local store. When you're ready, begin swapping the good for the better. By generating more energy, you may notice an improvement in your use of coping skills, particularly mindfulness.