Understanding depression: the myths and facts

The death of Robin Williams' highlights the importance of understanding depression

Like all mental health problems, there is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding surrounding clinical depression. Part if this confusion arises from the fact that we all feel down or depressed sometimes, this is normal and is not the same as having depression.

Depression is long lasting low mood that affects your ability to do everyday things, feel pleasure, or take an interest in the things you normally enjoy. Symptoms can include feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness, and poor concentration.

It affects 1 in 10 of us at some point in our lives and according to the World Health Organisation, it is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Women are more likely to be diagnosed than men, but this could be because they are more likely to seek help.

While stressful life events and trauma can make depression more likely, it can affect anyone and it is not necessarily related to external events. It can therefore be extremely frustrating for people battling depression to be told they have ‘nothing to be depressed about’.

No one knows for sure what causes depression, and much more research still needs to be done. However, it is generally accepted that it is a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Depression tends to run in families. This could be because of genes, or it could be due to being exposed to other people's low moods.

Problems in childhood are thought to increase chances of depression, but many people who have had happy and stable childhood are still affected. Life events such as a break-up, death of a loved one or losing your job can sometimes be ‘triggers’ for the onset of depression.

There are things we can all do to safeguard our mental health in the same way we do for our physical health. Eating a balanced diet, getting exercise, limiting alcohol and having hobbies are all good for mental health and reduce chances of depression.

If you think you may be depressed, your first port of call should be your GP. Some GPs are better at dealing with mental health than others and if you don’t feel listened to, try booking an appointment with another doctor and taking someone you trust with you for support. You may also want to think about writing down how you are feeling and showing it to your GP if you find it hard to express verbally.

Depression is treatable and in many cases it is possible to fully recover, although some people will have episodes throughout their life. It is usually treated with a combination of medication and talking therapies, although medication should not be the first response to mild to moderate depression.

If someone you love is struggling with depression you may find it useful to learn more about the symptoms, treatments and self help techniques, so that you can encourage them to take the steps they need to get well. Offer emotional support, patience and encouragement, while also being mindful of your own mental health and taking care of yourself.

Simple things like spending time together and encouraging them to do things that once gave them pleasure can be really helpful. Just showing that you care and will listen without judgment, can be the most powerful thing of all.

Read more:
'My friend was the last person I expected to take his own life'

Further information about depression is available at www.rethink.org and via the Rethink Mental Illness Advice and Information phone line on 0300 5000 927

Samaritans is available round-the-clock on 08457 90 90 90 or email: jo@samaritans.org

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Full Stack Software Developer - Javascript

    £18000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Strategic Partnerships Coordinator

    £16000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Their research appears at the f...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This exciting startup disruptin...

    Day In a Page

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen