Is Depression Affecting Someone YOU Know?

Features

depression-13061 If depression affects one in five adults at some point during their lives, then the chances are we will all know at least one person to be affected by the illness. Recently, I learnt of two separate situations, where someone close to me could be suffering from depression and this compelled me to ask the question, had I not been made aware of it, would I of spotted the signs and symptoms before things went too far?

This thought process then escalated. If I, as someone who would consider themselves to be relatively familiar with the illness couldn’t spot the signs, then how could we expect someone who has never come into contact with mental health problems before to recognise someone close to them was suffering?

The signs of a mental health problem can be screamingly obvious to the sufferer but almost impossible for an outsider to spot, and when treating someone the focus is often on what has led to the illness, rather than how to prevent it.

On World Mental Health Day this year, Radio 5’s Stephen Nolan led an insightful discussion about the need for us to understand the range of mental health problems, just as we do for physical health. The answer to this is obvious yet proportionally absent, education and awareness.

If the people surrounding the sufferer, be it friends, family or colleagues, have been educated about mental health, have a good understanding of illnesses such as depression, and can recognise the signs, this gives them the ability to intervene in an appropriate way and begin to break down the three overwhelming thoughts in the sufferers mind –

“I’m the only one to feel like this”

“Nobody cares”

“Nobody wants to listen”

Here’s a list of symptoms for clinical depression, taken from the NHS website. Take it seriously, depression is real.

“The symptoms of depression can be complex and vary widely between people. But as a general rule, if you are depressed, you feel sad, hopeless and lose interest in things you used to enjoy. The symptoms persist for weeks or months and are bad enough to interfere with your work, social life and family life. There are many other symptoms of depression and you’re unlikely to have every one listed below. If you experience some of these symptoms for most of the day, every day for more than two weeks, you should seek help from your GP.

Psychological symptoms include:

• 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

Physical symptoms include:

• moving or speaking more slowly than usual

• change in appetite or weight (usually decreased, but sometimes increased)

• constipation

• unexplained aches and pains

• lack of energy or lack of interest in sex (loss of libido) •

changes to your menstrual cycle

• disturbed sleep (for example, finding it hard to fall asleep at night or waking up very early in the morning)

Social symptoms include:

• not doing well at work

• taking part in fewer social activities and avoiding contact with friends

• neglecting your hobbies and interests

• having difficulties in your home and family life

Depression can come on gradually, so it can be difficult to notice something is wrong. Many people continue to try to cope with their symptoms without realising they are ill. It can take a friend or family member to suggest something is wrong.

Doctors describe depression by how serious it is:

•mild depression has some impact on your daily life

• moderate depression has a significant impact on your daily life

• severe depression makes it almost impossible to get through daily life – a few people with severe depression may have psychotic symptoms”

If you’re worried that you or someone close to you could be suffering from depression there are various websites and helplines you can go to for advice: www.mind.org.uk www.samaritans.org  (08457 90 90 90 24-hour helpline) www.rethink.org www.youngminds.org

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Kesha – Showing the World She is a Warrior

Features, News

 

Kesha Sebert wallpaper

 

On Friday, singer Kesha became the latest celebrity to speak out about her eating disorder, when she checked into the Timberline Knolls Centre and gave this statement to the press:

“I’m a crusader for being yourself and loving yourself but I’ve found it hard to practice, I’ll be unavailable for the next 30 days, seeking treatment for my eating disorder … [and] to learn to love myself again. Exactly as I am.”

Being in the public eye, a celebrity always receives much more of a reaction from society when going public with an issue like this, which is why I have to admire Kesha’s bravery and that of the other celebrities who have spoken openly about their problems over the years.

However, going public is a gamble and there are both positive and negative repercussions when a celebrity admits to having an eating disorder. In some cases it can be a valuable and important message to others who may be suffering, particularly young girls who might idolise and look up to these celebrities, and I would like to think that it may encourage others to get help themselves.

However, unfortunately, the media has a tendency to focus on the negative aspects. I have already read a number of online articles scrutinising Kesha’s weight over the years and discussing her previous diet and exercise regimes. The other worry is the glamorisation of eating disorders, which often happens when they appear in the public eye associated with celebrities and supermodels. As much as society has started to move away from the idea that anorexia and bulimia are glamorous lifestyle choices, rather than serious diseases, there is still no doubt that young people and teenagers are susceptible to being influenced by the lifestyles of celebrities.

Although Kesha has done an extremely courageous and brave thing by getting the help she needs and doing it publicly, what her fans and the rest of the general public will never see or hear is the hardship she will face on her journey to recovery and for long afterwards. When celebrities do speak about their eating disorders the common occurrence is for them to emerge from rehab after a short time and as far as anyone is concerned, they are perfectly healthy again, all relationships with food restored. In reality of course this is not the case and Kesha among many others will still be battling her eating disorder behind closed doors for a long time to come.

These factors make me question just how positive celebrities speaking out actually can be, does it paint an unrealistic picture of an eating disorder? In 30 days time when Kesha makes her post-treatment statement to the press, some will know what is going on beneath the bravado, the challenges she has still to face and what recovery from an eating disorder is really like. I hope that her courage continues and that her influence will encourage others to take the same brave steps.

World Mental Health Day 2013

Opinion

Happy World Mental Health Day. It may seem like an unfortunate use of words to associate with mental health, but I believe that today is a positive thing. Mental health should be addressed, people should be talking about it and today should encourage more people to open up about their own experiences.

One in four people every year suffer with some form of mental health illness, but despite this, it has almost always been a taboo issue in the UK. We may have moved on from times when people with mental illnesses were victims of witch-hunts and thrown into jail but still now in the 21st century, society demonstrates a great fear of the unknown and a lack of understanding, which is scary in itself.

Mental health problems can affect anyone; men, women, adolescents and children and can have a dramatic impact on the patient and their family’s lives. In some cases sufferers have to continue to live with the shadow of their illness hanging over them, as despite the fact that half of sufferers are no longer affected after 18 months, society often fails to recognise that people can recover and lead normal lives. This creates more barriers that those inflicted must face and leads to people being deemed unemployable, unsafe and socially unaccepted. A vicious circle.

A survey by Time to Change campaign showed that 66 percent of university students say they have a mental health problem, yet only 0.3 percent would declare it on an application form. There is even evidence to suggest that men are less likely to get treated than women and are therefore three times more likely to commit suicide. This is a fact which saddens me greatly, and hits close to home. Knowing someone who recently took their own life, my views on mental health have been instilled more than ever, and I can’t help feeling, that if only there was no longer this black cloud of shame hanging over the mentally ill, then how many lives could be saved? Campaigning to rid stigma is one way of looking at it, but really we are fighting to save lives. How can that be ignored?

In the NHS Attitudes to Mental Illness Survey Report in 2011, 85 percent of those asked believed that people with a mental illness experience stigma and discrimination. This proves that as a nation we recognise there is a problem, yet still there is no significant change.

There is some hope though. Time to Change, which was set up in 2007, is England’s largest mental health anti-stigma campaign and is funded by Comic Relief, Big Lottery Fund and the British Government. The campaign is aiming to change attitudes and behaviour towards mental health through a variety of techniques, spreading their ‘It’s Time To Talk’ message. Time to Change believe that they have begun to reduce discrimination and improve public attitude towards mental health problems, and this is certainly true. In recent years awareness has greatened, with an increase in TV programs, blogs etc about mental health and more people are starting to speak out. However, it shouldn’t be just the ‘brave’ ones. Talking about mental health should be a normal part of life, just as physical illness is, and there is still a long way to go. It’s Time to Talk, it’s Time to Change.

 

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