Depression: how to get help - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

by Jennifer Hoff

Depression: how to get help

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ROCHESTER, MN (KTTC DT) -- Depression is a disease sweeping the country. It can affect everyone, but you'll meet the people who are most vulnerable. Those people are teenagers - one in five will experience depression before they're even adults. Two of them are sharing their story. This, as one woman reaches out to thousands of teens a year, hoping to save a life. And the new technology that's backing her up.

At the end of a school day, inside a dark auditorium, Andrea Thomas does her best to make these high schoolers see the light.

Thomas, NAMI says, "I experienced abuse as a child and had to deal with some of those ramifications later in my life."

Now, a public speaker, wife and mother of two young children, it might be hard to imagine Thomas has a mental illness.

Diagnosed with depression some 10 years ago, Thomas still relies on therapy and medication to live a stable life.

So, it's fitting really that the woman who once tried to end her life, is helping others save theirs.

Thomas says, "My passion is to say to young people, it's OK to ask for help. I didn't know and didn't have that education and I live every day to do that and enjoy doing that."

Thomas heads Rochester's NAMI chapter. The National Alliance of Mental Illness is a 30-year-old grassroots organization striving to educate people about mental illness.

Thomas say, "We answer the calls and do our best to educate the community as best we can."

That on this day, includes students at Rochester's Studio Academy, just a fraction of the thousand or so high schoolers Thomas talks to every year.

Molly Foley, high school senior says, "People would ask me and I'd say, oh I'm fine when really I wasn't."

Speaking to us after the presentation, 18-year-old Foley blames her once alcoholic father and the media for her bout with depression.

Foley says, "You look on TV and you see sex, beauty and if you're a little bit overweight or nerdy, things like that can cause a lot of sadness."

Of the 100 or so students at the talk, about half raised their hands when Thomas asked if they've ever been depressed.

Alex Schwultz, junior says, "You really have to know you're friends, you can't just let them sit around deal with it themselves."

Besides education, therapy or medicine, some people are turning to a brand new treatment at the Mayo Clinic that could put a stop to mental illness for good.

Thomas say, "But it's an expensive treatment so they don't use it very often."

Simply put, transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in your brain. Doctors recommend five sessions a week, for just as many weeks, that can last up to 40-minutes each.

A lengthy procedure, or support groups advocating education - there's a number of available options for teenagers or anyone else feeling desperate or depressed.

Thomas say, "It's not the end, if you have a mental illness that doesn't mean that's the end of what you can do as a person."

If you're feeling depressed or have questions about a mental illness, contact NAMI: www.namiolmstedco.org.

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