Cornwall Council’s Health Promotion Service is helping to raise awareness of depression as part of this year’s National Depression Awareness Week, which runs from April 28 to May 23.
Depression is a medical condition which people often struggle with in silence, and is frequently undiagnosed, due to people’s reluctance to seek help. It is estimated that there are 90,000 people in Cornwall suffering from a common mental disorder, usually anxiety, depression or both. It is difficult to give accurate figures, though national research suggests that around 16 per cent of adults are affected.
It is normal to experience a low mood at difficult times in our lives, but a low mood that doesn’t go away after a couple of weeks can be a sign of depression. If you think that you, or someone you know, may be depressed, then you should visit your GP, and they will discuss the available treatment options with you, including medication and talking therapies.
Five Ways to Wellbeing If your GP has diagnosed depression it is important that you continue with your prescribed treatment, but there are also ways by which we can help to improve our own mood. Research by the New Economics Foundation has shown that regular activity in five key areas can enhance an individual’s personal wellbeing.
The “Five Ways to Wellbeing” are: Connect, Be active, Take notice, Learn and Give. Under each of those broad headings people can find actions that appeal to their personal interests.
• Connect – enhance your social relationships, develop friendships, speak to someone new.
• Be active – regular physical activity is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety across all age groups. Activity might include sports but could also mean going for a gentle walk or doing some gardening.
• Take notice – enjoy the moment, enjoy and take care of your local environment, notice the changing seasons, try a different place to eat out.
• Learn – sign up for a class, read a book, do crosswords or Sudoku.
• Give – participate in your community, commit ‘random acts of kindness’.
All of these are shown to improve mental wellbeing, or the perception of happiness in people, and can help people to feel better about themselves and their circumstances.
Sara Roberts, consultant in public health at Cornwall Council, said: "Depression is a problem that affects many people – probably someone you know struggles with it. If you recognise these symptoms in yourself, you are not alone – and you don’t have to struggle on your own.
"There are many sources of help available to you and the place to start, if you think you are depressed, is to talk to your GP. But you can also find a range of information about mental health, including self-help advice, from the Cornwall Mental Health, Mind and Depression Alliance websites.
“I have used the ‘five ways to wellbeing’ myself and I’ve found it a helpful reminder to get a balance of interests and activities in my life’.
NHS Kernow’s joint programme lead for mental health Sandra Miles, said, ‘Mental illness, including depression, is nothing to feel ashamed about. Mental health problems affect one in four people, yet many people still find it difficult to talk to someone about how they’re feeling. It’s really important that anyone who is concerned about their mental health, or that of someone they know, should talk to their GP.
‘NHS Kernow commissions a range of support for anyone who is struggling to cope, from third sector voluntary services and talking therapies to a range of specialist support. The sooner you seek help, the quicker you can receive support and treatment.’ Depression Alliance, the UK’s leading charity for people affected by depression, explains more about depression on their website www.depressionalliance.org. Their website says “If you are affected by depression, you are not 'just' sad or upset. You have an illness which means that intense feeling of persistent sadness, helplessness and hopelessness are accompanied by physical effects such as sleeplessness, a loss of energy, or physical aches and pains.”
Common symptoms of depression As a general rule, if you have experienced four or more of these symptoms, for most of the day, nearly every day, for over two weeks, then you should seek help.
• Tiredness and loss of energy
• Persistent sadness
• Loss of self-confidence and self-esteem
• Difficulty concentrating
• Not being able to enjoy things that are usually pleasurable or interesting
• Undue feelings of guilt or worthlessness
• Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
• Sleeping problems - difficulties in getting off to sleep or waking up much earlier than usual
• Avoiding other people, sometimes even your close friends
• Finding it hard to function at work/college/school
• Loss of appetite
• Loss of sex drive and/ or sexual problems
• Physical aches and pains
• Thinking about suicide and death