08/18/2014 09:28 am ET Updated Oct 18, 2014

Depression and Women: Five Tips for Getting Help

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The recent suicide of Robin Williams is striking a strong cultural chord, as did suicides earlier this year by Philip Seymour Hoffman and L'Wren Scott.

The reported commonality among them? Depression. According to the World Health Organization report,

Depressive disorders often start at a young age; they reduce people's functioning and often are recurring. For these reasons, depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide in terms of total years lost due to disability.

The leading global cause of disability is depression.

Even more alarming? This statement, from the same report:

While depression is the leading cause of disability for both males and females, the burden of depression is 50% higher for females than males ... . In fact, depression is the leading cause of disease burden for women in both high-income and low- and middle-income countries ...

Women suffer from depression 50 percent more than men.

Jacqueline Dawes is an expert in depression. She knows what it's like to feel such an ocean of pain there is no escaping from it. And she knows what it's like to successfully overcome it.

Jacqueline's depression was triggered when her beloved daughter died unexpectedly several years ago, as a result of having taken Ecstasy.

If you're suffering, as Jacqueline said, Treat is with dignity. Respond to it. Get help for it."

Don't pretend it away. And if you see a loved one or work colleague who may be depressed, have the courage to speak up. Treat it with dignity.

"Nobody can stay sick unless they have someone helping them to stay sick."

If you have a family member who seems to be depressed, or says she is, you need to pay attention. A very tough question to ask yourself: are you ignoring it or dismissing it?

As Jacqueline shares about her daughter, Julia:

She had become depressed; she told me she was depressed. And I didn't really have any tolerance for it. I didn't think she had anything to be depressed about.

She felt unheard, I'm sure. She went to a nightclub, took some Ecstasy, came home, and went to bed. I woke her up the next morning. She couldn't talk, so I called an ambulance. She died in my arms.

"Getting well is hard. Staying well is harder."

Depression is manageable. But it's not always a walk in the park on a sunny spring day. Part of managing any challenge is to accept its demands. To live within its parameters.

Too many people associate this idea with something negative, thinking that simply dealing with what's true somehow diminishes one's life to a restrictive label. It's just the opposite.

There is tremendous freedom in self-insight and self-responsibility.

Finally, Jacqueline says, "If you're feeling low, it isn't going to get better by staying at home. More of the same behaviors means more of the same feelings."

Do something different. Move. Get out of the house. Call a friend or family member. Make an appointment with a psychotherapist.

In spite of her excruciating personal experiences, Jacqueline Dawes eventually began recovering from the depression following her daughter's death. She got out of the house, and has since become a passionate advocate for women getting the help they need.

She's dedicated her life to helping women overcome psychological and emotional challenges, including depression, as founder of Brookhaven Retreat Center.

5 Tips for Getting Help

"More than 80 percent of people with depression can be treated successfully with medication, psychotherapy or a combination of both." If you need help, or if you know someone who does, please reach out.

  1. Every city has a crisis hot line. A 10-second Google search will get you started in the right direction.
  2. Many treatment centers have free online quizzes to help you.
  3. There are good psychotherapists everywhere. (No, that isn't the family doctor, but your family doctor can give you a referral.)
  4. Be brave enough to wonder if you're enabling someone in your family to "stay sick." If you're not sure, a psychotherapy session can help you figure it out. (No, that isn't a friend or your sister. These are matters for a trained professional.)
  5. Never ignore it when someone talks about depression or suicide. Jacqueline makes an important point when she says, "Most people who die don't usually want to die. When they talk about dying, they actually mean they do not know how to live."

Follow any of the steps here, and start getting some help.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.