In honor of Depression Awareness Month, Kings County hospital held a free screening to check for symptoms of the mental health illness earlier this month. The initiative was aimed at raising knowledge about depression for their community and teach people how to identify signs of depression. But while it affects various people, it tends to remain a taboo subject in the Caribbean community, leading people to suffer in silence, said a psychiatrist at the medical center.
“Depression and suicide in a lot of ways affect the overall population because it is a major disorder that has an impact in all communities,” said Dr. Monica Broderick. “It is not unique to the Caribbean community, but how it plays itself out, in the feelings and stigma — it is a big issue.”
Hospital officials say two main signs of depression are changes in mood and physical changes, such as not enjoying things one used to partake in, drastic change in sleeping patterns, and eating habits. And those reason can be extrapolated by other health factors.
“Depression and health go hand in hand,” said Broderick. “If it doesn’t get addressed it has major impact on physical health. The outcome of heart disease, diabetes, or substance abuse, can fare much worse if someone is also depressed.”
Another glaring aspect of depression within in the Caribbean community can stem from barrel children — a phenomenon of children left by parents who migrated to the states. When a family is separated for a considerable time and reconnected again, some resentment of abandonment is often carried into adulthood and that is something often discovered in the community, said Broderick.
“Some experienced trauma on the island and when they eventually reunite or meet with relatives, they may still be holding onto trauma or abuse that they experienced or they might be concerned about their immigration status, and that is definitely what we’re seeing,” she said.
In addition, economic factors such as work, wages, and expenses can become stressors that can trigger depression in someone caring for multiple relatives overseas, according to Broderick.
A high number of people are not seeking to remedy their feelings due to hesitance and misconceptions. But Kings County hospital officials are working towards creating a welcoming space for fearful patients to provide help.
“The stigma is very huge and we actually have peer counselors that can assist in normalizing their feelings and let them know that even if they feel alone — that’s not case,” said Broderick. “We have a large number of clinicians who are of Caribbean descent and they are there to make people feel more comfortable and understand them.”
And having staff that can personally connect with patients is one of the best ways to further assist patients, said one peer counselor.
“Peer counselors are invariable part of team and are great at helping our patients get as much resources as they can on their journey on recovery,” said Anne Tallegrand, who is a 10-year survivor of depression.
Walk-ins for screenings can be made at any Kings County building, including their Behavorial Health building, regardless of insurance or immigration status.