Depression can happen to anybody and is not a sign of weakness. Difficult events in life can trigger a sadness that can develop into depression. The symptoms can be mild and pass quickly. However, sometimes they become worse with time and one needs to take action. My personal experience taught me that help is available and treatment is highly effective.
Losing a loved one is difficult. The older one gets, the more frequently one experiences loss. One’s grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles and sometimes friends who felt like family die. When I lost my mother much too early in my 40s, I really crumbled. Not immediately after her death but nearly a year later.
There was too much to do at first. The funeral, the paperwork, the house clearance and sharing her possessions amongst us siblings. Thankfully, there were no disagreements about who would get what. My sister, brother and I were raised to share with each other.
After about a year, just before the anniversary of my Mum’s death, it hit me. I experienced what deep depression felt like. The nice, sunny, summer days looked like November to me. Thick fog surrounded me and I didn’t think I would ever get out of the grey mass. Something was pressing my heart and I had palpitations. Physical and mental symptoms stopped me from functioning normally. My job suffered. I had studied psychology, but recognising the symptoms did not mean that I could heal myself. However, I recognised that I needed support.
Help is available
Thankfully, a friend told me about a bereavement charity and I asked them for help. It took several months of counselling before I could shake off the sadness. Looking back at those dark months I am glad I managed to climb out of the pit I had dropped into. Depression brought on by an event like a bereavement is called reactive.
Types of depression
There are several forms of depression. The severity of the condition and the duration of the symptoms will tell experts which category you fall into. It is normal to feel sad about or grieve over difficult life situations. However, depression is different if it persists practically every day for at least two weeks and involves other symptoms than sadness alone. Clinical depression is the most severe type of depression. Without treatment, severe depression can get worse and last longer. In some cases it can lead to self harm. It is vital to seek help from your GP or a specialist.
Treatment is effective
The good news is that treatments can be very effective in improving symptoms. But the first step is to recognise that one is depressed. https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/clinical-depression/symptoms/
Some of the symptoms to look out for are:
- continuous low mood or sadness
- feeling hopeless and helpless
- having low self-esteem
- feeling tearful
- feeling guilt-ridden
- feeling irritable and intolerant of others
- having no motivation or interest in things
- finding it difficult to make decisions
- not getting any enjoyment out of life
- feeling anxious or worried
- having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself.
Depression also has physical and social symptoms. Frequent insomnia, loss of appetite or constant overeating, indigestion and lack of energy are some of them. Of course, your social life is impacted too. If you are feeling low, you will engage less with friends. Your lower energy level might lead to your neglecting hobbies or interests. This in turn can cause difficulties at home and at work. Some people get to feel so hopeless, that they might even consider suicide.
- Around three-quarters of suicides were males (4,129 deaths; 74.0%), consistent with long-term trends, and equivalent to 16.0 deaths per 100,000, the rate for females was 5.5 deaths per 100,000.
- Among females, the age-specific suicide rate was highest in those aged 45 to 49 years (7.8 deaths per 100,000), while among males it was highest in those aged 50 to 54 years (22.7 deaths per 100,000).
- Females aged 24 years or under have seen the largest increase in the suicide rate since our time series began in 1981.
- In 10 out of the 11 previous years, London has had the lowest suicide rate of any region of England (6.6 deaths per 100,000), while the highest rate was in the North East with 14.1 deaths per 100,000 in 2021.
In October 2022, Labour’s Shadow Mental Health Minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan discussed the ‘alarming’ findings of research into the mental health of university students around the UK, with Nick Ferrari on Breakfast at LBC.
“The Shadow Mental Health Minister revealed that a university student takes their life every five days, among a list of other damning findings from research conducted by the Labour Party.
Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, who works in A&E, discussed the results with Nick Ferrari on Breakfast at LBC on Mental Health Awareness Day on Monday.”
Funding for mental health support has been cut by this government. This needs to be addressed.
In addition, there is the difficult issue of whether universities should have a duty to inform families of students encountering problems. They are over 18 and might be deterred from seeking help, if they knew that confidentiality was not guaranteed. At present, families often learn that a loved one has committed suicide without ever having an inkling that the student was at risk. Privacy regulations versus common sense? It’s complicated.
My personal experience showed me how vital it is to recognise if one (or a family member or friend) suffers from depression and immediately seek help from experts. I chose counselling for help with my bereavement https://www.cruse.org.uk. There is no shame in needing support. It can happen to anyone. The stigma must be removed.
If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and the Republic of Ireland) or email [email protected].
You can also contact other sources of support, such as those listed on the NHS help for suicidal thoughts Webpage.
Help is available around the clock, every day of the year, providing a safe place for you, whoever you are and however you are feeling.