We all go through spells of feeling down, but when you're depressed you feel persistently sad for weeks or months rather than just a few days.
Depression affects men and women, young and old. Symptoms range from lasting feelings of sadness and hopelessness to losing interest in the things you used to enjoy and feeling very tearful or anxious. There can be physical symptoms too, such as feeling constantly tired, sleeping badly, having no appetite or sex drive and complaining of various aches and pains.
Life-changing events, such as bereavement, losing your job or even having a baby can bring on depression. People with a family history of depression are more likely to experience depression themselves. But you can also become depressed for no obvious reason.
The good news is that most people can make a full recovery from depression. Treatment can involve either medicine, counselling or psychotherapy, or a combination of these.
It's important to seek help from your doctor if you think you may be depressed.
beyondblue provides more information on depression on their website www.beyondblue.org.au, or by calling their information line on 1300 22 4636.
Depression is a real illness with real symptoms, and it's not a sign of weakness or something you can 'snap out of' by 'pulling yourself together'.
Sharing a problem with someone else or with a group can give you support and an insight into your own depression. Research shows that talking can help people recover from depression and cope better with stress.
You may not feel comfortable discussing your mental health and sharing your distress with others. If so, writing about how you feel or expressing your emotions through poetry or art are other ways to help your mood.
If you are feeling suicidal, contact your doctor, or an organisation such as beyondblue, as soon as possible. They will help you.
Some warning signs that someone with depression may be considering suicide include:
- making final arrangements
- talking about death or suicide
- a sudden lifting of mood.
If you are feeling suicidal, seek immediate help. Your doctor or acute care team can provide you with a range of options for treating and managing mental health issues. The emergency department at your local hospital will also be able to help you. Alternatively if you are in Australia, you can ring the following numbers for 24-hour help, support and advice:
- Lifeline 13 11 14
- Kids Helpline 1800 551 800
- Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
- MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78
It may be tempting to smoke, drink or take drugs to make you feel better, but cigarettes and alcohol make things worse in the long run. Research has revealed a strong link between cannabis use and mental illness, including depression. If you drink or smoke too much or use drugs, seek advice and support from your doctor.
If your depression is caused by working too much or is affecting your ability to do your job, you may need time off to recover. However, there is evidence that taking prolonged time off work can make depression worse and that going back to work can help you recover from depression.
If you're employed, you may be able to work shorter hours or work in a more flexible way. If you can't work as a result of your depression, you may be eligible for a range of benefits depending on your circumstances.
The mindhealthconnect website (www.mindhealthconnect.org.au) is a government initiative which provides a gateway to issues surrounding mental health care, and a way to find relevant support and resources to meet your needs.
Facts & figures
- About 20% of people will be affected by depression and 6% will experience a major depressive illness.
- Postnatal depression affects between 10 and 20% of all new mothers to some degree.
- Mental illness in general is common in Australia with one in five Australians experiencing a mental illness at some stage in their lives and many experiencing more than one mental illness at one time.
- Prevalence of mental illness decreases with age and is greatest among 18-24-year-olds (27%), including substance abuse disorder, while prevalence among people 65 years and over is 6.1%.
- Mental disorders are the third leading cause of disability burden in Australia, accounting for an estimated 27% of the total years lost due to disability. Major depression accounts for more days lost to illness than almost any other physical or mental disorder.
Source: mindhealthconnect (homepage)