Depression: Let’s talk

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Depression affects people of all ages, from all walks of life. While we can all feel sad and anxious at times, depression is a health condition that can seriously impact a person’s physical and mental wellbeing.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), depression is typically characterised by persistent sadness and a loss of interest and ability to carry out one’s day-to-day activities. People with depression may also experience a loss of energy; a change in appetite; sleeping more or less; anxiety; reduced concentration; feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness; and thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

Yet the prevention and treatment of depression can be significantly assisted through talking. For those experiencing depression, talking to someone you trust can be a positive step towards seeking the right treatment and improving your mental health. In general, talking about depression can help to raise awareness and reduce stigmatisation.

“Depression: Let’s talk” is the theme of this year’s World Health Day, taking place on 7 April. In recognition of this day, we have sourced information on helpful ways to approach talking about mental health for individuals experiencing depression and also for concerned friends and family.

Asking for help

Sometimes opening up and asking for help can be one of the most difficult parts of having depression. But being honest and open about what you’re experiencing will help you get the most appropriate treatment for your needs.

  • Talk to someone you trust. Often talking to someone close to you is a good first step. That person may be a family member or a close friend, or even a teacher or colleague. Be gentle with yourself and take it slowly, and remember that different people will react in different ways. If someone is not helpful in their reaction, this is a reflection on their lack of understanding, not a reflection of you or your situation.

  • Talk to a mental health professional. A mental health professional, such as a psychologist, will be able to provide expert care and treatment based on facts, whilst taking into consideration your individual needs and circumstances. You might feel embarrassed to talk about your personal thoughts, feelings and experiences, but professionals are trained to help people with mental health concerns every day. Anything you talk about with a mental health professional is private and confidential, except if someone is at risk of being harmed or harming others.

There are many credible resources and support networks that you can check out for more information, and for help. Here are just a few:

Talking to a loved one with depression

Witnessing someone you care about experiencing depression can be difficult. Luckily there are lots of ways to approach this kind of conversation, and many support networks to guide you.

  • Start the conversation early. If you notice early warning signs in a family member, friend or colleague, check in on them by asking if they’re okay. Sometimes people suffering from depression withhold from talking to others about how they’re feeling because they are afraid of what others might think. Asking if that person is okay can encourage them to open up about what they’re experiencing, which can help start the process of finding appropriate care and treatment.

  • Be proactive with mental health. Finding out about depression, its treatment options and your local support services will help you understand what your loved one is experiencing and better equip you to have a compassionate and helpful conversation with him/her.

  • Know your limits. You can’t provide positive support to someone with depression if your own mental health is being impacted by doing so. Develop a sense of balance between your needs and the needs of the person you care for, and explain to that person what level of support you are realistically able to provide. This will ensure that the type of support you are unable to provide can be arranged in another way, and will also help you to maintain your own mental health so that you can continue to be a positive source of support.

For more information on supporting a person with depression, check out the below resources:

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