Mental illness is a topic that hits me close to home. And with “r u ok?” day just around the corner, like tomorrow, Thursday 8th Sept, I thought it would be appropriate and timely, to take the time to acknowledge a couple of little pains in the butt, that continue to pop up in not only my life, but also in the lives of people I hold near and dear, good old depression and anxiety.
In Australia alone, 45% of people will experience a mental health condition. In any one year, approximately 1 million adults, have depression, with a staggering 2 million suffering anxiety. Even though both conditions are different, it’s not uncommon to experience both at the same time.
So, what is depression?
This will vary for each sufferer, and can stem from various situations or relationships, but can generally be broken down into four categories; behaviour, feelings, thoughts and physical symptoms, or signs.
- Not going out and participating in activities that would normally be considered normal, poor concentration, and withdrawing from family and friends, could be considered behavioural signs.
- Feeling sad, overwhelmed, lacking in confidence and just unhappy most of the time, could be considered feeling signs/symptoms.
- Negative thought patterns; “I’m a failure”, “it’s all my fault” and my favourite……..”I’m worthless”, followed closely by,”everyone would be better off without me anyway”.
- Constant fatigue, feeling sick and run down, churning stomach, and difficulty sleeping can be physical signs and symptoms of depression.
The good news is……….THERE IS HELP!
You may feel comfort in talking to a close friend or life partner, because the thought of talking to you GP may sound silly, after all, you “don’t look sick”. Chatting with a close friend will definitely help, but your GP is a health professional, and if he/she isn’t equipped or trained in mental health issues, they will (and do) refer you on to someone who is, for confidential and professional treatment.
Some psychological treatments that sufferers may benefit from are;
Cognitive behaviour treatment– a structured treatment that has been identified as one of the most effective treatments for depression. This generally involves working with a trained therapist to identify thought and behavioural patterns that trigger depressive thoughts, or thoughts that are intruding on your mind, to prolong recovery when experiencing depression.
Behaviour therapy– a major component of cognitive behavioural treatment, but instead of attempting to change the mindset and thought pattern, it’s focus is to encourage rewarding, joyous, and self satisfying activities.
Interpersonal therapy– this form of treatment is structured to focus on problems in personal relationships, and to provide strategies and skills to cope with relationship issues. Identifying the patterns associated with interpersonal therapy, implementing strategies, and focusing on improving relationships, coping with grief, and learning new ways on how to converse with others, are all positive outcomes from this type of treatment.
Mindfulness based cognitive therapy- a therapy that is not for everyone, because it is usually delivered in a group environment. This type of therapy evolves around meditation, and the teachings of focusing on the present, and noticing the thought, feeling, or behaviour associated with the mental illness without trying to change it. Mindfulness based cognitive therapy can also aid in controlling “mind wandering” thoughts about the past or the future, and help avoid unpleasant thoughts and feelings. This type of therapy is helpful for preventing depression or anxiety returning, as it encourages the noticing and acknowledgement of the thought or feeling early, allowing warning signs from your body to identify the onset of a depressive or anxiety attack coming on, and can be dealt with quickly and effectively.
These therapies are all designed to help recover from, and prevent the return of, a mental health issue, and should be discussed with a trained professional
Depression and anxiety, like all illnesses, isn’t picky with who it resides with; small children, through to the elderly, men, women, no race, sexuality or religion is immune to either illness. The important thing to remember is, YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
Surrounding yourself with a support network is vital. Mental illness challenges the person it has embodied as often as it likes, to the point that just getting through the day can sometimes be a struggle within itself. A fantastic support person/network will gradually learn to recognise when something isn’t right, generally before you know it yourself. They are there to talk though any triggers while remaining calm, logical, and most importantly, non-judgemental.
Never advise someone you know, who is suffering from depression or anxiety to, “snap out of it”, or to “get their act together”. Keeping them busy, or trying to encourage them out won’t generally work either (just saying), if anything, those remarks or good intentions could lead to making things worse.
Even a fantastic support person/network needs support. If you are a support person for anyone experiencing a mental health issue, remember to look after you too! Ask for, or accept help when it’s offered. You are playing an extremely important role in managing the issue at hand, and as much as it may not seem like it at times, but your love, support and guidance does not go unnoticed by the sufferer.
From experience, it is big, and very overwhelming when you open up, expose raw emotion, and talk about mental illness, but I, like others, have realised that it really does “take a village” when supporting each other, and overcoming obstacles that God/the Universe throws our way. Whatever the experiences are we all face and encounter, I believe that we are all here doing the best we can, with what we’ve been given, and we need to support each other on this journey that is life.
To be continued……
Until next time, take care of you………
PS: It is ok to ask someone who you think might be suffering from a mental health issue, “R U OK?” They just may value the fact that you took the time to notice and ask. Whether you know it or not, it could make a world of difference!
I have drawn on information from Beyond Blue as well as my own personal experiences in writing this piece