One of my patients painted the above picture when he was struggling with depression. I was fascinated with the use of colour and abstract design.
Why is blue associated with depression? The question was asked in the comments on the last post. I contemplated the possibilities and came to some inconclusive ideas. Blue is a cool colour and cold can make the skin take an unpleasant bluish hue. Illness and death also cause the body to become blue. No one at the hospital looks forward hearing "Code Blue" which is called over the intercom in the event of cardiac or respiratory arrest. Others associate blue with storms and rain. Blue is a peaceful and calming colour, but too much calm may cause melancholy.
I work with many depressed elderly people. Our Geriatric Assessment Unit admits patients with physical problems that are often compounded with moderate to severe depression. Treatment may be pharmaceutical or a combination of drugs and behaviour therapy. Many people respond to group activities, music or art therapy, spiritual care, exercise, pain management, or just having a routine to their day. Meals are taken in a dining room and patients forge friendships with each other that are often mutually beneficial.
Mental illness is poorly understood by many people yet its effects can ripple through generations of a family. A patient's daughter reported that her mother had been depressed for fifty years. She is now in her nineties and was recently started on a low dose antidepressant. Her daughter came to me and said,
"My mother just smiled at me and told me she liked the colour of my nail polish!"
She did not remember seeing her mother smile spontaneously and had not heard her give a compliment. How sad!
Our facility uses the short Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) to assess a patient's mood and their response to treatment. A score above 5 indicates further assessment is warranted. A score greater than 10 is strongly indicative of depression. The bold responses are scored. Here are the questions. (The full test which includes thirty questions can be viewedhere.)
Choose the best answer for how you have felt over the past week:
1. Are you basically satisfied with your life? YES / NO
2. Have you dropped many of your activities and interests? YES / NO
3. Do you feel that your life is empty? YES / NO
4. Do you often get bored? YES / NO
5. Are you in good spirits most of the time? YES / NO
6. Are you afraid that something bad is going to happen to you? YES / NO
7. Do you feel happy most of the time? YES / NO
8. Do you often feel helpless? YES / NO
9. Do you prefer to stay at home, rather than going outand doing new things? YES / NO
10. Do you feel you have more problems with memory than most? YES / NO
11. Do you think it is wonderful to be alive now?YES / NO
12. Do you feel pretty worthless the way you are now?YES/ NO
13. Do you feel full of energy?YES / NO
14. Do you feel that your situation is hopeless?YES/ NO
15. Do you think that most people are better off than you are?YES/ NO