My Independence Day holiday wasn't too pleasant.

I lost a lifelong friend.

He apparently was troubled by something and depression got the best of him.

He no longer lived locally and we hadn't spoken in a long time.

But, according to his family, he was having good days and bad days like all of us.

However, his bad days were much worse than anybody knew.

Eventually, he did the unthinkable.

I'm sick over the loss. It was unnecessary. I wish I could've done something to prevent it.

I wish I had known how he felt so that I could have tried to intervene.

But we can never truly put ourselves in another person's shoes.

That's why it's important to understand depression, and to know that it is more than simply being "moody." It's actually a chemical imbalance.

Many factors can trigger the imbalance - death of a loved one, divorce, loss of a job, a bad relationship, misuse of drugs, substance abuse, or simply an inability to deal with a difficult situation.

Some professionals say a family link is present in cases of chemical depression. In other words, a genetic link might make a person predisposed to the condition. And who knows which of us falls into that category?

In fact, depression is so prevalent that it's sometimes called the common cold of mental illness. It's probably fair to say that, at one point or another, just about every person feels a bit depressed. It affects each of us differently, says a physician.

"Individuals with depression lose chemicals like serotonin and dopamine at different rates based upon transporter density. This helps explain why one person with depression may experience loss of appetite while another may not. And some people have more severe symptoms than others," says Dr. Jeffrey Meyer, Center for Addiction and Mental Heath, Canada.

If your depression lasts many days, it's time to seek help.

Depression is very treatable. And there's no shame in feeling depressed. It's not your fault. The important thing is to get help right away.

I know this because I went through depression after the loss of loved ones. But I went for medical help.

Getting help for depression is the best way to go. If you feel distraught, if you can't stop crying, if the future appears bleak, please get yourself to the doctor. There are many different medications to help manage symptoms.

Even exercise, something as simple as walking, can help depression.

But understand that depression has a life of its own, and if left untreated, it can end yours.

It can lead to desperation and thoughts and actions that just don't make sense.

Seventeen years ago, I lost my younger brother that way. He was at the point where he should've been enjoying life. But his spirits were low for a variety of reasons. No person who reaches age 38 should feel that his life must end at that point.

But depression puts thoughts in your head that defy logic.

And suicide cuts a deep wound that never heals for those left behind.

The roller coaster of emotions and unending questions are something nobody should ever have to endure.

If you feel depressed, don't hold it inside and don't try to deal with it yourself.

Tell others about it. Ask someone to take you to a doctor.

Please take that first step; it's a step toward feeling better.

It'll make all the difference in the world for yourself and folks who care about you.