In the last instalment of our Mental Health series, we look at depression; a common mental health issue that affects people of all ages, including teenagers and young adults. We cover what depression is, how it differs from anxiety, and what you can do to manage and improve your symptoms. We also cover how to support someone with depression and list some resources which may be useful.
What is depression?
Depression is a mental health condition that can affect your thoughts, feelings, and behaviour. It’s more than just feeling sad or down (emotions that everyone has, but for short periods of time), and it can impact your daily life. Depression can make it difficult to enjoy activities you once enjoyed, affect your sleep patterns, and even cause physical symptoms like headaches or stomach aches. Depression is treatable, but it’s important to reach out for help if you’re struggling.
How is depression different from anxiety?
Depression and anxiety are two different mental health conditions, but they can often occur together. While depression is characterized by feelings of sadness and hopelessness, anxiety is marked by excessive worry and fear. Anxiety can also cause physical symptoms like a racing heart, sweating, or trembling.
What are the symptoms of depression?
The symptoms of depression can vary from person to person, but common signs include:
- Feeling sad or hopeless
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
What can you do to manage and improve your depression?
Managing and improving your depression can take some time, but there are steps you can take to feel better. Here are some tips:
- Talk to someone: Talking to someone you trust about how you’re feeling can help. This could be a friend, family member, teacher, or healthcare professional.
- Practice self-care: Taking care of yourself is essential. This could include eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, exercising, and doing activities you enjoy.
- Seek professional help: Your GP can help you manage your depression. This could include therapy, medication, or a combination of both.
- Challenge negative thoughts: Depression can cause negative thoughts, but challenging them can help. Ask yourself if your thoughts are rational and try to replace them with more positive thoughts. A good starting point could be to think about or write down a few things that you are grateful for every day.
- Set small goals: Setting small goals for yourself allows you to feel more accomplished and improve your mood, even if it is to get out of bed or take a shower.
How to support someone with Depression
If someone you know is struggling with depression, it can be difficult to know how to support them. Here are a few things you can do to help:
- Listen: Sometimes, all someone needs is for someone else to listen. Let them know you’re there for them and that you’re willing to listen without judgement.
- Be patient: Recovery from depression takes time, so it’s crucial to be patient and not expect them to “just snap out of it.”
- Encourage them to seek help: Suggest that they talk to their GP and offer to help them find resources if needed (there’s a list of organisations and charities below)
- Offer practical help: Offer to help with everyday tasks like food shopping or cleaning, or offer to accompany them to appointments. If you’re studying together, you can be a revision buddy or an accountability partner to complete your work.
- Take care of yourself: Supporting someone with depression can be draining, so you need to take care of yourself, too. Make sure you’re taking breaks and reaching out for your own support when needed.
- NHS: The NHS website provides information on depression and how to get help. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/clinical-depression/
- Papyrus: A charity that works to prevent suicide among young people. They offer a helpline and text support. https://www.papyrus-uk.org/
- Mind: A mental health charity that provides information and support on a range of mental health issues, including depression. They offer online resources and support via local community branches. https://www.mind.org.uk/
- YoungMinds: A mental health charity for children, young people and their parents. They provide information, advice and support on a range of mental health issues. https://youngminds.org.uk/
- Childline: A free, confidential helpline for children and young people. They offer support and advice on a range of issues, including depression. https://www.childline.org.uk/
- The Mix: A support service for young people under 25. They provide information, support and advice on a range of issues, including mental health. https://www.themix.org.uk/
- Samaritans: A charity that provides emotional support to anyone in emotional distress, including young people. They offer a helpline and email support. https://www.samaritans.org/
- Black Minds Matter: A UK charity that connects Black individuals and families with free mental health services. https://www.blackmindsmatteruk.com/
These organisations and helplines can provide information and support, but they are not a substitute for professional care, so do not hesitate to go to your GP. And remember that you don’t have to go through it alone, and you can and will recover.
(Image Credit: Lukas Rychvalsky: https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-standing-near-lake-670720/)