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Depression, addiction: There is hope
By Tim Lineaweaver, Cape Cod Times

September 01, 2008

I've lived on Cape Cod all my 52 years, though I've spent time in California, the Caribbean and I've visited Europe a couple times. I believe the Cape is the most idyllic place. Nowadays, I am lucky to have a good job and own a home. But it wasn't always this way.

I grew up in a home where there was depression and addiction and the stigma, despair and frustration that accompanies those conditions. My mother, brother and I did all we could to help my father, but in the end he died at age 56 of complications from his depression-fueled alcoholism. A once handsome and intelligent man, his body just withered away and he stopped functioning. It was a long, painful slide.

Our family has been a long time recovering. Quite young, I developed my own addictions and depression, but with the help of local agencies, I got into recovery at age 28 and have been sober since.

Depression, anxiety and addictions are real problems on the Cape. I've been honored to spend the last four years as project director of Community Care for Depression, a project of the Cape and Vineyard Community Health Center Network. The goal of the project was to screen all patients at the four community health centers and to connect patients to care.

Various recent news stories discussed some of the project's outcomes: Of the 15,800 patients screened, there were high rates of depression (43 percent); addictions (25 percent); and suicidal thoughts (7.4 percent).

We don't want people to think the Cape is not a good place to visit. But here, like anywhere, there are problems: finding affordable housing and jobs with sustainable wages, high prices, and access to health care being but a few. There is stress and isolation as people try to gain a more secure life. Cape suicide rates are higher, 9.8 per 100,000 compared to 7.7 per 100,000 across the state.

Nantucket struggled over the last year with adolescent suicides and Martha's Vineyard also saw a spike in adolescent psychiatric admissions for suicide attempts.

Amidst these problems there is hope. In addition to the many outstanding agencies providing services to people in need, the Cape's community health centers are rallying to provide integrated mental health and substance abuse services alongside primary care.

I am also gratified to learn that the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health have taken notice and are producing a noteworthy event on Sept. 17 from 9 a.m. to noon at Cape Cod Community College: "Depression: True Stories: A Town Meeting on Cape Cod."

The meeting will provide people of all ages with the opportunity to participate in a screening of the compelling film "Depression: True Stories" followed by a community dialogue about depression. Attendees will also receive complimentary copies of the DVD "Depression: True Stories" to use in their community outreach activities. I believe this conversation will lead to tangible results.

If your family has struggled like mine did, or if you or someone you know is depressed and/or addicted, there is help available. The Cape community is pulling together as it always does. Join us on Sept. 17.

There is hope.

Tim Lineaweaver is director of behavioral health at the Community Health Center of Cape Cod.

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