Depression Awareness and Screening Month

by Jim Hajny, Executive Director

October 17, 2023

Depression was the first diagnosis that I received from a counselor. It was nearly three decades ago but it was the first. I would receive others over the years, but you never forget your first.

Back then I recall feeling both relieved and confused. On one hand, I was relieved that there was a name for what I felt was wrong with me. On the other hand. I didn't want to be a mentally ill person. Depression tends to be a catch all for people who are having mental health difficulties. I remember being put on antidepressant. Which didn't seem to help. In fact, some of them that I was on. Made my symptoms worse. Hey man. Make changes. Dosage challenges. Changes. But having a diagnosis gave me a starting point to begin to educate myself on mental health treatment and ultimately recovery. With the diagnosis I could look up books to read books about depression. I read biographies and autobiographies of famous individuals who suffered from depression, such as Abraham Lincoln and Eric Clapton. (If you don’t know who Mr. Clapton is go online and type, “Layla”.) Life stories gave me a sense of hope that I wouldn't be this way my entire life. I could get better and I could have a better life. It also allowed me to be vulnerable, to show some of my symptoms outwardly. I was very good at hiding them. Before my diagnosis I hid them away from the outside world. I didn’t want the world to know I was sad, after all I was a man. Men don’t cry. I didn’t want the world to know my inner thoughts where I wanted to die. This would make me look crazy. I was hurting and before my diagnosis I hid that away. With a diagnosis I received treatment in the form of therapy, medication, and peer support. This was how my recovery began. With my first diagnosis. I had no idea it would lead to Montana’s Peer Network. Back then I could barely get through the day. If you feel down or have an idea something is not quite right, even occasionally make an appointment with a professional such as a counselor or a doctor to get screened for depression. They will ask you some questions, which may be uncomfortable. But maybe you too can start your own journey of recovery and stop suffering in silence. Recovery is possible but you have to take the first step.


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