The Color of Depression

Does Color Matter? What do you think of when you think Red? Green? You may have thought of feelings or senses like, love, growth, life, anger, envy, excitement or more. We have favorite colors and others we prefer to wear. Colors remind us of sports, changing seasons, a friend’s features or favorite memories. We even care about the color of the foods we eat. Our word “vibrant,” meaning both “brimming with enthusiasm” and “bright or colorful,” connects color with emotion, positive and negative. Color presupposes emotion to be good.

We desire vibrancy in our lives, our relationships, and our work. Likewise, we naturally know something is wrong when someone has “lost color.” Think of someone sickly, terrified, or lifeless. Each is “drained of color.”

The Tough Part

Depression drains color from experience. As what is vibrant fades, everything becomes dull. Depression is marked with sadness, heaviness, or simply no feeling at all. Lethargy and fatigue, mind fog, pointlessness, nihilism, and hopelessness cocoon your body and mind. It begins to sap every thought and feeling of their color. Even what you loved doesn’t connect anymore with you. No reason.

It feels like it knows you. To an extent, it is you. Other people cannot seem to quite relate. Why are they even trying to help what cannot be helped? Thoughts and feelings like this are common.

In 2017, 30% of United States’ highschoolers interviewed reported feeling depressed for two or more consecutive weeks at some point that year. 9% of North Carolina highschoolers admitted to having attempted suicide in 2017. 1 in 5 American adults will experience some form of mental illness each year, and depression is among nearly every case.

Depression is a national problem. It is more than sadness. It’s not “just laziness.” It can be subtly overwhelming in its effect on well-being and makes all of life seem insurmountable. It is not solved by merely being told to “strengthen up,” “just be positive,” “pick yourself up,” “pray it away,” or even to just let it pass.

As of now, there is no direct “cure” for depression.  Positive thinking, movement, action begetting results, and the responsibility and agency of the individual are all powerful tools, yet do not “solve” depression. This is one of the most troubling realities of depression. There is no struggle–or the struggle is so exhausting that any progress “out of the dark” slows to a halt and slides back into the same dullness where you began.

The Good News

The good news is that depression is manageable. Serotonin, a brain chemical, is among those your brain uses to regulate emotion, thought function, and desire. Medicine has come a long way in helping the mind utilize chemicals like Serotonin for longer. This has an effect of fostering mental vibrancy and pointing your mind on a healthy trajectory.

Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health America has set aside the month of May to speak plainly on topics like Depression since 1949.  In 2013, President Obama made May Mental Health Awareness Month to annually remove the stigma surrounding mental illness. Knowing what Depression is and having the tools and language to describe it can help you and others.

There are many on the front lines who are doing their best to help bring color back to those who need it. New Leaf Behavioral Health and the Foundation of Hope are two organizations who carry out this mission in our local Raleigh area each day.

With connections to organizations like these, resources like Mental Health America’s “Tools 2 Thrive,” and sometimes even giving you a listening ear or shoulder to lean on, you can help bring vibrancy into someone’s world. There is always hope to be found and shared!

And there are always colors after the rain.

Written by staff member Cale Little (MA in Christian Marriage, Family, and Individual Counseling and has been a youth counselor for 10 years) for our Depressed Cake Shop to raise money and awareness for mental health.  He and his wife Katie are big fans of comicon events.

| May 27, 2020

A new white paper commissioned by the National Coffee Association of the United States suggests that coffee drinkers are less likely to suffer from depression by as much as one third.

The paper, written by longtime NCA advisor and recipient of the group’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017 Alan Leviton, provides a brief meta-analysis of recent research suggesting various positive impacts of coffee on physical and mental health.

“Evidence shows that coffee drinkers are significantly less likely to be depressed than people who do not drink coffee,” Leviton, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School who specializes in the neurology of preterm newborns, said in an announcement from the NCA. “Coffee’s positive impact on mental health appears to be related to its anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, and microbiome-promoting properties, which are also associated with coffee drinkers’ reduced risk of developing certain cancers and chronic diseases.”

It should be noted that in the same breath, the white paper cautions that there are plenty of “obstacles that it make it difficult to study how coffee consumption reduces the risk of depression and suicide.”

Those include misclassification of diagnoses and outcomes, the complexity of various disorders that are often associated with depression, and the issue of genetic heritability, as in, “How much of the risk of depression can be attributed to genetic propensity?” according to the paper.

The paper leans on four studies that concern themselves primarily with coffee consumption and depression, including two 2016 meta-analyses that covered some 300,000 patients, 8,000 of whom were identified as depressed.

It also shared results from two more recent studies, one of a middle-age population led by researchers in Spain, and the other covering depression incidence among coffee and tea drinkers in South Korea.

The Korean study showed the strongest association between coffee and reduced risk of depression, with people who drank at least two cups per day reporting a 32% lower presence of self-diagnosed depression. In the Spanish study, people who drank at least four cups of coffee per day described as more than 20% less likely to be diagnosed with “clinically significant” depression, according to the white paper.