County employees turned their Friday lunch breaks into an opportunity to learn more about a topic that is not often discussed at work: depression.
Nearly 20 employees gathered for the Lunch and Learn — a program consisting of periodic luncheons devoted to different health topics — as part of a grant-funded program called L.I.V.E. Well.
The program is designed to help government employees get into healthy living—mentally and physically.
Participants earn "points" for various healthy activities they do, including visiting doctors, attending Lunch and Learn sessions and eating nutritiously.
To open the luncheon, L.I.V.E. Well promotion leader Laura Troutman announced that Annette Richardson earned the most points in the first quarter of 2011. Richardson won a $50 Visa gift card and a shirt.
Last fall, Troutman asked 120 employees to take health-risk surveys. The two biggest issues that came back were stress and depression.
As a result of the survey, Troutman invited William Darsey, a professional counselor at Darsey, Black and Associates clinical mental health services provider, to give a presentation.
Darsey specializes in behavioral difficulties with children/adolescents, addiction issues and traditional psychotherapy.
"Depression is something that, unfortunately, is alive and well. It affects about 9.5 percent of the adult population," Darsey told the audience. "It is across the board. It is an equal opportunity disorder — it affects women, men and children."
Darsey passed out several handouts on depression, including one on the "pendulum of emotion" to demonstrate how a person may go from unipolar to bipolar and all the moods in between.
Depressive states can range from mild, which allows a person to function while unhappy, or severe, which can make it difficult for someone to even get out of bed.
"I can think of a childhood adult friend of my family’s that we would go to their house, and the only thing you’d see was this woman — she was always in the bedroom. She would later kill herself in the house," Darsey said.
"Severe depression is the one we’re most concerned about as far as intervening as quickly as we can … our stress filters are different. It’s our own cognition of how we see things. Everybody reacts to different situations differently."
Exercise and eating healthful foods are known mood-boosters, and treatment also can help a depressed person in as little as two weeks, the counselor said.
After Darsey spoke, employees played a few rounds of Bingo for $10 Uncommon Grounds gift cards, and they chatted about the session.
Larry Logan, deputy director of the Liberty County Emergency Management Agency, said he thought the event was helpful.
Depression is a topic that has been brought to light in the news because of celebrities’ diagnoses and other mental-illness-related stories, he said.
"I got out of the class given today that people are really not aware of how depression affects people," Logan said.
"It’s getting to be more prominent. All of that makes this class worth it if we can save one person in our workplace."