Psychiatric nurse lectures on the mental health issue, says she was inspired by former archbishop
By Nathan Rumohr
You shouldn't rely only on prayer to fight depression, says Jo-Ann Tait. The Providence Health Care registered psychiatric nurse shared this notion during her lecture at the Catholic Health Association annual conference, held Sept. 20 at the Executive Plaza Hotel in Coquitlam.
The day-long conference, titled "Welcome Me as I Am," focused on the subject of mental health to raise the awareness of the Catholic health community.
Tait focused on properly defining depression. She noted that it is a major health issue that is still not properly understood by many.
"Often when I speak to family members of someone with depression, I liken it to diabetes," Tait said. "I talk about the chemical imbalance of diabetes and compare it to the chemical imbalance in someone with depression."
Tait said she got involved in the field after seeing how open Archbishop Emeritus Raymond Roussin, SM, of Vancouver was with his battle with depression. "I think his disclosure normalized it for people," she said. "He took away a little bit of the fear about trying to seek help."
Since then Tait has given presentations on depression to priests.
"I think now we've moved past some people's mindset that if people pray more their depression will go," she said. "We have to shift to thinking that there is a chemical imbalance (in depression) and what support actually looks like."
She gave a brief history of depression, saying the ancient Greek philosopher Hippocrates was the first to describe the disorder, calling it "melancholia." She said Aristotle took Hippocrates's observations to a new level and started to see melancholia in "men of learning." After that depression wasn't looked at seriously until the 1950s.
The World Health Organization estimates by 2020 depression will be the second leading cause of disability, after heart disease, she said.
Tait described some of the symptoms of depression. She said loss of a desire to do things, weight gain, and insomnia can be symptoms if they persist for at least two weeks.
Women are twice as likely as men to have depression diagnosed, possibly because women speak more naturally about their emotional problems. Men tend to be more successful at committing suicide.
Tait then focused on depression and the elderly.
She said 15 to 20 per cent of seniors living in the community have some sort of depression. She said it is staggering that when they live in residential care it's 25 to 80 per cent. Tait works with elderly people with mental illness at Youville Residence.
"As someone ages we tend to think they're going to have aches and pains because they are old," she said, "so we miss the opportunity to have a conversation about what's driving that pain, as that pain might be coming from depression."