WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Following Robin Williams' death there is a national discussion about depression and substance abuse. Dr. Thomas N. Wise of Inova Fairfax Hospital talks about the symptoms and treatment of depression.
Andrea: After we read the stories about Robin Williams we always say if you are or you know someone who is feeling depressed this is the number to call. What do we see, how do you know what to feel, what are the symptoms of depression?
Dr. Wise: Well there are a lot of symptoms that can occur in how people think and the way we can tell that is what people are talking about it everything seems helpless, everything seems negative. In friends and family members and such individuals we will see that. The others are behavioral things, they don't feel like doing the things that they used to enjoy, they become isolated not wanting to go out. The other things are basic vital signs, peoples appetites will change. Generally about 85% of depressed people will eat less, could lose weight. About 15% will eat a lot more so its not consistent. The other is sleep people who have increasingly difficult sleep problems may or may not complain about it but there family members should know about it. So you have to look at the personal attributes of the individual. What they think and how they behave, but also interpersonal. What signals are they giving to people. The other is behaviors and we see in Robin Williams case using substances alcohol and other drugs is a major sign that there could well be a depression.
Andrea: You talked about the substance abuse. Robin Williams sought help for substance abuse I heard him say in an interview tonight that he was sober for 20 years. But he said maybe I should've done more about the depression.
Dr. Wise: It is indeed tragic and he was probably right in retrospect we can say that. People tend to abuse alcohol become dependent on it may well be depressed and people thus who achieve sobriety through a variety of means. Treatment for depression treatment for substance abuse when they get depressed, if they become depressed can relapse for the substances. So we should never want to look at substance abuse in of itself as a isolated unitary problem. It can be treated without depression. But about a third as you pointed out to more people who abuse alcohol or other substances also have depression. It can never be easily separated at the initial intake. Individuals that are being treated for alcohol have to rule out depression first to achieve successful treatment.
Dr. Wise notes that communication is the key to save loved ones from thoughts of depression that can lead to suicide. If you need help or a person close to you needs help do not hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. The person on the line will put you in contact with a person most close to you.