Social support systems are a big part of our lives, and as you probably know, they’re important to our emotional well-being. Our emotional well-being affects how we feel, think, and deal with challenges and problems. Some people have reliable and broad social support networks that include family and extended family, friends, community members, community organizations, and local churches. Others are more isolated.
But sometimes even the best support system is not enough to keep us on the positive and we feel sad, hopeless, unimportant, and unable to cope with daily activities and stresses. This may be depression. Depression and anxiety can affect everything in your life, making it hard to make decisions, relate to other people, keep up with your job and family, and handle stress.
Depression is a big health risk among African Americans:
- African American adults are more likely to report serious psychological distress than adult whites (citation).
- Depression is less acknowledged and more stigmatized in the African American community.
- Many African Americans do not seek professional help for depression when they need it.
And, did you know that smokers are more likely to have depression than non-smokers? Nobody knows exactly why‚ but one idea is that people who have depression might smoke to feel better. Smoking, however, is only a temporary solution for handling stress, tension, or depression. While nicotine causes the release of dopamine (a brain chemical that triggers positive feelings), over time smoking encourages the brain to switch off its own mechanism for making dopamine—making people want to smoke more. And e-cigarettes aren’t any better. Vaping may be a gateway to cigarette smoking. And, vaping has not been proven to help people quit smoking. You can find many free smoking cessation resources on the web.
Screening yourself to see if you’re at risk for depression and anxiety is the first step to getting help and feeling better. It’s quick and easy—and will let you know if you need to do more to take care of your emotional health and well-being.
Decide to take care of your emotional well-being. Your emotional health affects your life and those you love so dearly. You’re worth it. Now, you’re ready to ACT.
- Current Depression Among Adults (US, 2006 and 2008, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5938a2.htm
- National Urban League, Project Wellness, Chronic Health Diseases in the African American Community