Word on Health

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Word On Depression

What is depression ? Depression is one of the most common conditions in the UK, affecting one in five people at some stage in their life. It is also one of the most misunderstood. The World Health Organisation estimates that by 2020 depression will be the biggest global health concern after chronic heart disease.

The word 'depression' is used to describe everyday feelings of low mood which can affect us all from time to time. Feeling sad or fed up is a normal reaction to experiences that are upsetting, stressful or difficult; those feelings will usually pass.

If you are affected by depression, you are not 'just' sad or upset. You have an illness which means that intense feeling of persistent sadness, helplessness and hopelessness are accompanied by physical effects such as sleeplessness, a loss of energy, or physical aches and pains.

Sometimes people may not realise how depressed they are, especially if they have been feeling the same for a long time, if they have been trying to cope with their depression by keeping themselves busy, or if their depressive symptoms are more physical than emotional.

Here is a list of the most common symptoms of depression. As a general rule, if you have experienced five or more of these symptoms, for most of the day nearly every day, for over two weeks, then you should seek help.

  • Tiredness and loss of energy
  • Persistent sadness
  • Loss of self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Not being able to enjoy things that are usually pleasurable or interesting
  • Undue feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
  • Sleeping problems - difficulties in getting off to sleep or waking up much earlier than usual
  • Avoiding other people, sometimes even your close friends
  • Finding it hard to function at work/college/school
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of sex drive and/ or sexual problems
  • Physical aches and pains
  • Thinking about suicide and death
  • Self-harm

Terms you might hear - everyone's experience of depression is different.  However, several specific types of depression have been identified.

Reactive depression - this type of depression is triggered by a traumatic, difficult or stressful event, and people affected will feel low, anxious, irritable, an even angry. Reactive depression can also follow prolonged period of stress and can begin even after the stress is over.

Endogenous depression -  is not always triggered by an upsetting or stressful event.  Those affected by this common form of depression will experience physical symptoms such as weight change, tiredness, sleeping problems and low mood, as well as poor concentration an low self-esteem.

Manic depression (also known as bipolar depression)  - people with manic depression experience mood swings, with 'highs' of excessive energy and elation, to 'lows' of utter despair and lethargy.  Delusions of hallucinations can also occur. Most people with this condition have their first episode in their late teens or early twenties.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) - this type of depression generally coincides with the approach of winter. It is often linked to shortening of daylight hours and lack of sunlight. Symptoms will include wanting to sleep excessively and cravings for carbohydrates or sweet foods. Special 'light boxes' can be used to treat this kind of depression.

Post-natal depression - many new mothers will experience baby blues, mood swings, crying spells and feelings of loneliness three or four days after giving birth. Post-natal depression will however last for much longer and will include symptoms such as panic attacks, sleeping difficulties, having overwhelming fears about dying, and feelings of inadequacy and being unable to cope.

Post-natal depression is a common condition, affecting between 10% and 20% of new mothers. Starting two or three weeks after delivery, it often develops slowly, making it more difficult to diagnose.  Often it goes unrecognised by the woman herself, or by her family.

Treatments - treatment for depression can involve a variety of different approaches, including medication and talking treatments. Often people find that a combination of these work best.

Eight ways you can help someone with depression - you can help people experiencing depression, and in doing so you may even build a closer and more satisfying relationship with them. Remember though, that caring for someone with depression can be very frustrating and can also make you feel depressed. You may need support at times, too.

  • Remember that they cannot help being affected by depression.
  • Encourage them to talk and listen to what they are saying.
  • Let them know that you care about them.
  • Stay in contact with them. Send a card, give them a ring, visit them in their home.
  • Remember that depression can be a very isolating experience.
  • Help them to feel good about themselves by praising daily achievements.
  • Encourage them to help themselves by adopting self-help techniques.
  • Find out about support services available to them and to you (self-help groups, out of hours emergency support, helplines, see below).
  • Encourage them to visit their doctor, and ensure that they take any prescribed medication as directed.

Talking to someone who is depressed 


  • You're not alone in this.
  • You are important to me.
  • Do you want a hug?
  • You are not going mad.
  • We are not on this earth to see through one another, but to see one another through.
  • When all this is over, I'll still be here, and so will you.
  • I can't really understand what you are feeling, but I can offer my compassion.
  • I'm not going to leave you or abandon you.
  • I love you (if you mean it).
  • I'm sorry that you're in so much pain. I am not going to leave you. I am going to take care of myself, so you don't need to worry that your pain might hurt me.


  • There's always someone worse off than you are.
  • No one ever said that life was fair.
  • Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
  • So, you're depressed. Aren't you always?
  • Try not to be so depressed.
  • It's your own fault.
  • I think your depression is a way of punishing us.
  • Haven't you grown tired of all this me, me, me stuff yet?
  • Believe me, I know how you feel. I was depressed once for several days.
  • Have you tried chamomile tea?

If they are talking about or have attempted suicide -  Suicidal thinking is common in depression. Don't be afraid to ask them if they are suicidal, and try to reassure them that feeling or thinking the future is hopeless does not make it so in reality. If they have suicidal intentions, of have attempted suicide, call in other people (a GP, emergency services, social services) to help them and you with the situation. You can also contact The Samaritans (08457 90 90 90).

Reassure them that their life is important to you and to many other people, and that they will feel better once they receive appropriate treatment. However hard it may seem to look after a person who is suicidal, the fact that you are showing you care will have a positive impact.

Further help and support

Depression UK a self-help organisation that helps people cope with their depression. www.depressionuk.org

Action on Depression is the only national Scottish organisation working with and for people affected by depression. www.actionondepression.org

Bipolar UK dedicated to supporting individuals living with bipolar, their families and carers. www.bipolaruk.org.uk

Time to Change Campaign is England's biggest programme to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination.  www.time-to-change.org.uk

MIND provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. We campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding. www.mind.org.uk

Rethink Mental Illness help millions of people affected by mental illness by challenging attitudes and changing lives.  www.rethink.org

Mental Health Foundation  is committed to reducing the suffering caused by mental ill health and to help everyone lead mentally healthier lives.   www.mentalhealth.org.uk

SANE is a UK-wide charity working to improve quality of life for people affected by mental illness. www.sane.org.uk

Richmond Fellowship is an organisation working towards a society that values everyone with mental health problems. www.richmondfellowship.org.uk

Together is a national charity working alongside people with mental health issue on their journey towards independent and fulfilling lives. www.together-uk.org

Young Minds is the UK’s leading charity committed to improving the emotional well being and mental health of children and young people.  ww.youngminds.org.uk

Wish is a user-led charity working with women with mental health needs in prison, hospital and the community. www.womenatwish.org.uk

Stem4 is a charity dedicated to improving teenage mental health by stemming commonly occurring mental health issues at an early stage. www.stem4.org.uk

The British Psychological Society and its members develop, promote and apply psychology for the public good. The organisation enhances the efficiency and usefulness of psychologists by setting high standards of professional education and knowledge. www.bps.org.uk

British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy  www.bacp.co.uk

PANDAS Foundation offers support to families suffering from pre (antenatal) and postnatal depression. www.pandasfoundation.org.uk

Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide aims to meet the needs and break the isolation of those bereaved by the suicide of a close relative or friend. www.uk-sobs.org.uk

Console is dedicated to suicide prevention, intervention and postvention service. www.consolecounselling.co.uk

PAPYRUS (prevention of young suicide) is working to reduce stigma, raise awareness, provide support services and campaign on issues surrounding suicide. www.papyrus-uk.org

B-eat  provides information, help and support for people affected by eating disorders. www.b-eat.co.uk

MGEDT (Men Get Eating Disorders Too) is dedicated to representing and supporting the needs of men with eating disorders. www.mengetedstoo.co.uk

Anorexia and Bulimia Care (ABC) vision is to see all those affected by eating disorders being supported with kindness, no judgment, a listening ear and encouragement, along the journey to full recovery. www.anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk

BODY actively celebrates individuality and strives to help those with body disorders. www.bodycharity.pride-park.com

Syeda supports anyone affected by an eating disorder. www.syeda.org.uk 

Eating Disorder Support  providing help and support to anyone affected by an eating disorder. www.eatingdisorderssupport.co.uk

Action on Addiction the only charity working across the addiction field in research, prevention, treatment, professional education, support for families and children and campaigns. www.actiononaddiction.org.uk

FRANK  A friendly,confidential drug advice service, dedicated to providing information about drugs and support for people affected by the influence of drugs. www.talktofrank.com

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)  concerned solely with the personal recovery and continued sobriety of individual alcoholics who turn to the Fellowship for help. www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk

Narcotics Annonymous  a non-profit fellowship of men and women for whom drugs had become a major problem. We are recovering addicts who meet regularly to help each other stay clean. www.ukna.org 

Blue Star Foundation  compulsive shopping or what's more commonly referred to as shopping addiction, is perhaps the most socially reinforced of the behavioral addictions.  We aim to raise awareness and provide helpful information for sufferers. www.bluestarfoundation.com.au

Sex Addicts Anonymous UK (SAA) is a group of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other for the purpose of finding freedom from addictive sexual behaviour and helping others recover from sex addiction. www.saa-recovery.org.uk

24 Hour Help Lines

Samaritans  a confidential emotional support service available 24hrs a day 365 days a year. People talk to us anytime they like, in their own way and off the record about whatever’s getting to them. Call 08457 90 90 90 www.samaritans.org

Childline a free and confidential 24 hour help line for children available on 0800 1111.  You can contact ChildLine about anything. No problem is too big or too small. Whatever your worry it’s better out than in. There are several ways you can get in touch with us, which you can find out more about on the website’’ www.childline.org.uk

Nightline provides emotional support to students in distress. Their phones are manned throughout the night during term time when other specialist university welfare services are closed. Now operating at over 90 universities and colleges, each individual Nightline is run by students for students at their university. Nightline is confidential and anonymous; students don't have to tell them anything about themselves, not even their name. www.nightline.ac.uk

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All material on this website is provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being.