Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Depression Awareness Week

This week is Depression Awareness Week.

This is a cause close to my heart, as I've suffered from depression. It is a terrible, debilitating disease, and despite the fact that 1 in 5 people in the UK are said to suffer from it, is still largely misunderstood. As the illness can cause shame and a desire to isolate yourself, many people are unable to speak out while they are suffering. It is also very hard to explain to someone who hasn't been through it. That is why initiatives like Depression Awareness Week are so important. I hope it will go some way to helping people, whether it's healthcare providers, employers, or friends and family, to understand the disease and how to support sufferers.

It may also reach those who are suffering but don't know why, and prompt them to seek the help they need. The good news is that there are things that you can do, and for most people depression is now treatable, or at least manageable. Things can get better.

If you think you, or someone you know, may have depression, it's important to see your GP as they can help you access a lot of the help that is available. I have always had wonderful support from my GPs, but I've also heard stories where this is not the case. If you don't think your personal GP will be sympathetic, ask if anyone at your surgery has a specific interest in psychological issues and arrange to see them.

There are many resources "out there" for people with depression and their family, friends and carers, here are a few I've found useful and/or interesting.

Depression Alliance

Black Dog Tribe via SANE

Help for partners

Self care is an important part of recovery from depression. Actually, it's important for everyone, but those with depression seem to have a lower tolerance for the strain we put ourselves under when we don't look after ourselves properly. The things that seem to really make a difference for me are:

  • Getting outside. Fresh air really is a tonic. Sunshine helps a lot too, but even on a grey, drizzly day I felt better for going outside for at least 15 minutes.
  • Exercise. If this is combined with going out, so much the better. Walking is great! I also do yoga, which helps me to relate to my body, and the meditative aspects of yoga practice are especially calming.
  • Eating well. You see, this is not controversial, some might say it's stating the obvious, but it's so easy to not do when you're busy and a bit stressed and not paying attention to yourself. I would eat a large packet of crisps for dinner, even though I know that I feel so much better when I eat mostly fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Compassionate mind. This was a phrase my therapist used with me. He was basically saying, be nice to yourself. Treat yourself as you would a good friend - which means not expecting to be able to get a million things done in one evening. Not beating yourself up when something doesn't go to plan. It's incredibly hard to do for some of us, and may require the support of a counsellor or therapist. But if you can, even occasionally, tell yourself that you did your best and learnt something, or look at the things on the list you did achieve rather than the ones you didn't fit in, it can be the start of a change in outlook.
Please spread the word about Depression Awareness Week. Get help if you need it (or a friend does). Look after yourself. Read some of the information that's out there to find out a little bit more about what depression is and what it isn't. Maybe with greater understanding and compassion, we can reduce the stigma and judgement that there currently is around the subject.

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