Whilst the majority of us understand the importance of good mental health - research suggests a great many of us are unsure as to when to seek medical intervention for depression. The good news is there are effective treatments available as well as greater apppreciation and understanding for people living with clinical depression - the most important step forward in overcoming it is talking to your doctor or practice nurse.
I hope you find the information below useful. I've included details on organisations that can provide help and support at the bottom of this page. If you are living with depression, please, please, please...don't suffer in silence, there are people who care and want to help.
What is depression ? Depression is one of the most common conditions in the UK, affecting one in four at some stage in their life. Putting COVID 19 to one side, the World Health Organisation estimates depression is the biggest global health concern after chronic heart disease. It is also one of the most misunderstood.
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 clinical depression, you are not 'just' sad or upset nor is it an indication that you are in any way weak - the opposite is true - keeping your life going whilst living with clinical depression requires great strength. Sometimes people don't 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, cloaking it with drink and/or drugs or if their depressive symptoms are more physical than emotional.
Clinical depression is 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.
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.
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 and low self-esteem.
Bipolar depression (also known as manic depression) - is a spectrum disorder, characterised typically with mood swings - 'highs' of excessive energy and elation, to 'lows' of utter despair and lethargy. Delusions or hallucinations can also occur. Most people 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 last for much longer (affecting 10-20% of mums) and will include symptoms such as panic attacks, sleeping difficulties, having overwhelming fears about dying, and feelings of inadequacy and being unable to cope. It can develop slowly, making it more difficult to diagnose. Often it goes unrecognised by the woman herself, or by her family.
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.
You can help people experiencing clinical 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 requires patience, it can be demanding and impact on your own mental health. You may need support at times, too.
If the person is talking about or has attempted suicide - stay calm- don't be afraid to talk...try to reassure them that feeling or thinking the future is hopeless does not make it so in reality. If they have suicidal intentions, or 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 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 (hyperlinks are highlighted in blue)
Depression UK a self-help organisation that helps people cope with their depression.
Action on Depression is the only national Scottish organisation working with and for people affected by depression.
Bipolar UK dedicated to supporting individuals living with bipolar, their families and carers.
Time to Change Campaign is England's biggest programme to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination.
MIND provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. We campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding.
Rethink Mental Illness help millions of people affected by mental illness by challenging attitudes and changing lives.
Mental Health Foundation is committed to reducing the suffering caused by mental ill health and to help everyone lead mentally healthier lives.
SANE is a UK-wide charity working to improve quality of life for people affected by mental illness.
Richmond Fellowship is an organisation working towards a society that values everyone with mental health problems.
Together is a national charity working alongside people with mental health issue on their journey towards independent and fulfilling lives.
Young Minds is the UK’s leading charity committed to improving the emotional well being and mental health of children and young people.
Wish is a user-led charity working with women with mental health needs in prison, hospital and the community.
Stem4 is a charity dedicated to improving teenage mental health by stemming commonly occurring mental health issues at an early stage.
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.
PANDAS Foundation offers support to families suffering from pre (antenatal) and postnatal depression.
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.
Console is dedicated to suicide prevention, intervention and postvention service.
PAPYRUS (prevention of young suicide) is working to reduce stigma, raise awareness, provide support services and campaign on issues surrounding suicide.
B-eat provides information, help and support for people affected by eating disorders.
MGEDT (Men Get Eating Disorders Too) is dedicated to representing and supporting the needs of men with eating disorders.
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.
BODY actively celebrates individuality and strives to help those with body disorders.
Syeda supports anyone affected by an eating disorder.
Eating Disorder Support providing help and support to anyone affected by an eating disorder.
Action on Addiction the only charity working across the addiction field in research, prevention, treatment, professional education, support for families and children and campaigns.
FRANK A friendly,confidential drug advice service, dedicated to providing information about drugs and support for people affected by the influence of drugs.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) concerned solely with the personal recovery and continued sobriety of individual alcoholics who turn to the Fellowship for help.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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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.