Mental Health under the Spotlight: Depressed, sad or feeling blue? Rachna Joshi explains it all…
NOTE: If you are feeling suicidal and have thoughts or plans of killing yourself at this moment – dial 999 – you're not being silly, nor will you be laughed at. You may need some help and there is nothing wrong with that.
Depression is the most common mental health problem in the UK with around 2 in 3 people experiencing it at some point in their lives. It bears no barrier when it comes to age, culture or gender (though women are more susceptible to it than men.) The question remains however, when does feeling "a little bit blue" become full-blown depression? How can you recognise it in yourself and what can you do about it?
The word "depression" is often thrown around when in fact a person may mean they are having a bad day. They may have failed their driving test, or fallen out with a friend, or missed out on a promotion at work. This, I hasten to add, is NOT depression. This is life. As Ronan Keating would say, "Life is a roller-coaster" – it is full of high and low emotions which we journey along every day of our lives.
The key fact about depression is that it interferes with a person's day-to-day living. It is usually a feeling that has been ongoing for a number of weeks rather than a fleeting moment of being 'sad'. There is no known cause for depression however there have been suggestions of there being a genetic cause making some people more prone to it than others.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
Sometimes depression is triggered by a big life event – such as separation from a partner, bereavement or losing your job. In these cases, it is entirely appropriate to feel sad and upset, however when these feelings start affecting your physical health or have been ongoing for longer than expected – you may want to consider seeing your GP. Although depression is primarily a condition of the mind, it can develop into physical symptoms such as headaches, weight loss and tiredness.
Over the last two weeks, have you spent most days feeling:
· Tearful, feeling down or hopeless
· Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
· Feeling worthless or guilty
· Lack of sleep or sleeping too much
· Having a poor appetite or over-eating
· Tiredness and lack of energy
· Slow thinking or poor concentration
· Agitation or feeling "on edge"
· Feeling guilty, bad about yourself or as though you are a burden to others or disappointing people
· Thinking about death or dying a lot or thinking of harming yourself – this includes plans of suicide
If you have 5 or more of these symptoms listed above, consult your GP.
How bad is it Doc?
Depression is rated as mild, moderate or severe. As a rough estimate, mild depression is around 5-6 of the symptoms listed above, moderate is 7-8 and severe is over 8.
Therefore, I repeat, if you do have 5 or more of these symptoms listed above for most days for the past 2 weeks, please consult your GP as soon as possible.
One of the main reasons people avoid seeing their doctor is due to fear. Fear of being stigmatised, fear of being perceived as weak or crazy or fear that you will be put on medication. Others may think they are just being "silly" and need to "snap out of it". Unfortunately, it is not always a case of "snapping out of it" and when you bottle up your emotions and hope they will go away –you are probably making yourself feel even worse.
So if you are reading this, thinking this describes you perfectly, don't be afraid. You are not being "silly", you will not be ridiculed, and you are not weak or crazy. We all know that a problem shared is a problem halved, so why not share it with someone you trust? This can be a family member, a teacher, a neighbour, a friend and even, your doctor!
Ok, so what do I do now?
There are many different options for people who are going through a depressive episode.
Believe it or not, but there is a lot you can do to help yourself! Even by reading this article you are taking the first step towards helping yourself to understand why you may be feeling depressed.
- Can you think of a trigger point? Was there a moment you weren't depressed and then you were? Are you having problems with your family/friends/work?
- Is there something you enjoy doing? Can you fit that into your weekly schedule?
- Can you talk to someone about how you are feeling? How about the people mentioned above? If you aren't keen on talking, how about writing them a letter or writing in a personal diary to help you get your feelings out?
- Go outside – get some fresh air! It's easy to want to stay indoors and not do anything when you're feeling down but going outside helps you to get some exercise and make you feel better about yourself.
- Eat regularly and healthily – even if you don't feel like it! Eating a balanced meal along with lots of fruit and vegetables can make you feel better.
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes or illegal drugs to make you feel better. They often make things worse in the long run.
2. Talking therapies and websites
- Can you access counselling or talking therapies through your school, university or local GP?
- www.llttf.com "Living life to the full"- a free online course written by mental health specialists to help people suffering from depression and anxiety (my personal recommendation!)
- www.depressionalliance.org provides information and support which may be useful.
- www.plymouthoptions.co.uk – a local service for adults
- www.patient.co.uk – A patient-friendly website with reliable information about depression, medication and more.
3. Medication & beyond
- Antidepressant medication may be an option discussed with you by your GP. These may help you to function better and ease off some depressive symptoms. They usually take 2-4 weeks before you feel the difference and you may need to take them for over 6 months.
- There are different classes of antidepressant medication and you may need to try a few before you and your doctor feel you have found one that works best. Remember, each medication comes with its own side-effects so make sure you read the leaflet inside the box.
- If these do not help then you may be referred to see a Psychiatrist (a doctor who specialises in mental health). This does not mean you are "mad" or "crazy" – just that you may need some specialist help to get you back to feeling better.
Depression is very common and can really affect your quality of life. You may feel low, bad about yourself, tired and like "life isn't worth living". Please don't hesitate to go and see your doctor. As a medical student, I can honestly say that we won't laugh, we don't bite – we're here to help and will do the best we can to get you back to feeling good again!