We’re coming to the end of “Depression Awareness Week.”
In the UK, depression has now overtaken lower back pain as the leading cause of lost workdays, according to a 2014 report by the Health and Safety Executive.
It is estimated that in the US, about 200 million workdays are lost to depression each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put the cost of this depression-related absenteeism at $44 billion.
What on earth is this “depression,” this blight on our human existence, this disease that turns light into darkness, hope into despair?
Depression is not any one thing. It comes in many guises, with many origins. (Ideally it should have variety in treatment options, too; it doesnt.) It is deeply personal—there are as many different types as there are people walking this earth.
If you're depressed, don't suffer in silence. Ask for help, loudly if need be.
This week especially there are lots of stories and guidance available online. Here's a small selection.
An Awareness Week to be aware of
A moving personal account in from a mental health nurse who became a patient. From Huffington Post UK:
As a mental health nurse, I never thought that depression would never happen to me and that if it did, I'd know what to do. Alas the reality was a total shock. I actually had no idea about what it would be like or what to do. Imagine a life in monochrome where the colour, light, and life has been sucked out. Imagine it hurting to breathe, hurting to move, the notion of opening one's eyes or getting up feeling utterly impossible. Imagine a shuffling grey foggy existence where the mere act of existence is a battle, where your favourite things, your passions, your memories, the best meal or piece of music or whatever floats your boat looks and feels like a lump of soggy cardboard. Imagine being trapped in a bubble where you can see and hear the world around you but you cannot connect with it. Where even the loved ones in your life feel like blurred figures on a bleak horizon. And then contemplate how you'd react to being told that you just needed to pull yourself together, that you were being self indulgent, or selfish, or in need of a kick up the arse or to get a grip. If only it was that easy eh?
'My life feels bleak, but should I dig up a painful past?'
In The Independent, Agony Aunt Virginia Ironside answers a question from a depressed young woman with a difficult past who is condering counselling—her boyfriend advises against it. Writes Ironside:
Your boyfriend makes an excellent point. An enormous number of people are able either to bury horrible experiences for good, or park them conveniently on a shelf so high up that they’re never in the field of vision. I imagine that most people going about their daily business perfectly happily have had the odd unspeakable experience in their childhoods, but for some reason they’ve dealt with it in such a manner that it’s never bothered them again. For those people, it would be a great mistake to start burrowing and staring and analysing; far from being helpful, it could just traumatise them all over again, and there’s no use in that.
But from what you say, it sounds, from your symptoms, as though something’s going on in your psyche that needs some attention. The depression is the rumbling of an old injustice or pain that, far from being buried, is shoving its way to the surface, demanding to be heard. It’s easy for your boyfriend to say that you should put things behind you, but what if they refuse to be ignored? What if you can’t put them behind you?
The double life of someone with depression
A typical local interest story, from the North Devon Journal:
With Depression Awareness Week running until April 26 - and with one in four people set to experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives - a member of a self-help group has spoken about of her battle with the illness.
Depression affects around one in 12 people, regardless of age or class. Yet the stigma and discrimination associated with it means that few people feel comfortable about admitting to being a sufferer.
The Journal's sister paper, the Exeter Express and Echo, spoke to a volunteer who helps run the Depression Alliance group.
"I can be feeling like I'm dying inside, but I put on a brave face and smile and then no one knows I have depression."
The admission comes from a 34-year-old woman who lives and works in Exeter, and chooses to hide her health problems from colleagues and friends because of the stigma associated with depression.
Her secret was even kept from her family until recently and it was only through talking openly that she realised depression was also experienced by other members of her family.
• What is depression? (Depression Alliance)
• Depression Awareness Week 2015: 10 facts about depression (International Business Times)
• Is mindfulness cognitive therapy as good as medicine for treating depression? (Science World Report)
• Are you depressed? Take the NHS self-assessment test. (NHS)
A crisp report on the diminishing stigma of mental ill-health—and diminishing resources for care. From The Economist:
More people from all walks of life are opening up about mental illness, says Sophie Corlett of MIND, a British mental-health advocacy group. Campaigns by many governments and charities to get rid of the stigma are part of a virtuous circle in which each person who speaks out lessens ignorance and makes it easier for other sufferers to do so too. Only 13% of Britons surveyed in 2013 agreed that a history of mental illness should bar someone from public office, down from 21% five years earlier. The number who said that they would be willing to have a mentally ill co-worker or neighbour went up.
With greater openness comes more understanding of just how common mental illness is. One in five working-age people in rich countries suffer from a mental condition each year. About a quarter of those suffer from severe illnesses, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, and the rest from less debilitating ones, such as mild depression or anxiety. But mental ailments are far less likely to receive treatment than physical ones. Over three-quarters of those suffering severe conditions, and over 90% of those with moderate ones, are treated by non-specialists or not at all (see chart 1). Lack of training means primary-care doctors miss some cases. Others go untreated because their conditions make it hard to push for referrals or deal with the insurance paperwork.
The resulting misery is huge.
Another Tory government will lead to a mental health services crisis, warn top health staff
Another Tory government would put mental health services at “serious risk”, a coalition of nurses, doctors and therapists will warn.
In a letter to the Daily Mirror more than 100 mental health workers say the Coalition have conducted a “sustained and vicious” attack on frontline services.
“We believe that this has put any member of the public with mental health needs at serious risk.
"We cannot continue to work under this intolerable stress as a result of cuts to our services.
“We are at risk of becoming (or in some cases already have become) mentally unwell ourselves.
"We believe that a serious change of course is desperately needed in order for us to do our jobs effectively and to prevent losing saveable lives.
"That is why none of us will be voting for the Conservative Party on 7th May,” the letter says.
Those signing the letter include mental health nurses, clinical psychologists, occupational health workers, support staff and social workers who between them have more than 2,180 years of NHS service.
• Hundreds of mental health experts issue rallying call against austerity (The Guardian)
Mental health and learning disabilities statistics monthly report
Key facts from Gov.UK:
At the end of January 2015:
◦ 970,229 people were in contact with mental health or learning disabilties services. Of these, 927,717 people were in contact with mental health services and 54,143 people were in contact with learning disabilities services. These two figures combined are higher than the total, as a person may be in contact with both services.
◦ 23,985 people were inpatients in hospital (2.5 per cent). 1,543 people were in hospital on wards for people with learning disabilities. The remaining 22,442 people were in hospital on wards for people with mental health needs.
◦ 17,163 people were subject to the Mental Health Act 1983 and of these 12,707 were detained in hospital (74.0 per cent) and 4,335 were subject to a CTO (25.3 per cent).
◦ 61.1 per cent people aged 18-69, who were being treated under the Care Programme Approach, were recorded as being in settled accommodation, while 6.8 per cent were recorded as being employed.
A surge in federal funding for Mental Health First Aid could make it popular
What a good idea. Too bad the U.K.’s grim age of austerity makes an initiative like this happening here seem unlikely. From the San Jose Mercury News:
It's not very often that someone can say he talked a person out of jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.
Gary Scheppke can.
Scheppke, a member of the Marin County Board of Mental Health, credits completing a certified course that trains a broad spectrum of people to identify and respond to mental illness.
The Mental Health First Aid course, advocates say, could grow to be what CPR is to heart attack victims.
The federal government has spent more than $20 million since 2013 to make the course available in local communities, and thousands of people around the Bay Area have completed it. It received financial and political backing after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in which a mentally disturbed man killed 20 children and six adults.
"You are far more likely to come across someone having a mental health crisis or substance abuse disorder than a heart attack or choking on the piece of food at a restaurant," said Bryan Gibb, director of public education for the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, which manages the course nationwide. About 20 percent of people have a mental health issue. Less than 1 percent have a heart attack each year.
Vanuatu: Churches train for disaster counselling
From Radio New Zealand:
Reverend Dr Stephen Robinson of the Uniting Church is in Vanuatu conducting disaster awareness training for priests and pastors of the Anglican and Presbyterian churches.
"Pastors needed to understand how people who have been traumatised how it affects the way they are thinking and also what the needs will be for him. What special needs will be emerging that they will need to address or work with."
Reverend Robinson says it is great that donor countries and agencies tend to the physical and material needs of disaster victims. But he believes Churches have an important role in tending to the spiritual and emotional trauma that disaster stricken communities face.