HealthAgenda

Mental Health

How to deal with depression

Don’t deal with depression alone. There are many ways to lessen symptoms to live a happier, healthier life.

As many as 1 in 7 Australians will experience depression in their lifetime, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. That’s about 2.83 million people in today’s numbers, so it’s likely you know someone who is struggling, or perhaps you’re experiencing symptoms yourself.

The good news is the stigma attached to mental health issues is being broken down, making it easier and more acceptable for people to ask for help.

Athletes, politicians and social media superstars now talk, tweet and text openly about their own battles, helping to normalise the condition and encourage a more open conversation around causes of, and treatment for, depression.

And there’s more good news. There’s a variety of treatments available that can help reduce the severity of episodes or reduce the chance of recurrence, whether you’re experiencing mild symptoms or more serious depressive disorders.

Here are the types of depression and what treatments can help.

What is depression?

One mistake many of us might make is confusing a bad day or low mood, with depression. While being unhappy at work, or feeling sad about a fight with a friend, can feel “depressing”, life events like these are unlikely to cause depression, unless they’re ongoing.

Depression is a low, sad, or helpless mood that doesn’t go away for two weeks or more.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • not enjoying the activities that usually make you happy
  • ongoing changes in sleeping or eating patterns
  • feeling tired or sick all the time
  • a sudden and continuous drop in libido.

What causes depression?

There is no one cause or reason that people get depression. While some types of depression can be caused by a genetic or hormonal imbalance, we now know environmental factors can also contribute. These can include:

  • ongoing stress
  • an abusive or unhappy relationship
  • long term unemployment
  • an illness or trauma
  • drug and/or alcohol addiction.

Treatment for depression

If you, or a loved one, is suffering from depression, it’s important to know you’re not alone and there are treatments that can help.

The first step is to speak to your GP. After a discussion they may recommend a type of treatment or refer you to another health professional.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating depression. Treatment types vary and are broken into three main groups:

1. Psychological treatments – also known as talking therapy or counselling, these treatments aim to help change behaviours and ways of thinking so we can cope better with life and its challenges. This can happen one-on-one, in a group setting, online or on the phone. Eligible HCF members* can access video consultations with psychologists, psychiatrists and other allied health professionals through PSYCH2U.

Here are some different types of psychological treatments:

  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) - uses a problem-solving approach to form a positive opinion of things, CBT can be used with any age group, including children and the elderly.
  • Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) - focusing on how we form relationships with other people, IPT can help us understand how our vulnerabilities and coping strategies might leave us open to depression.
  • Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) - shown to be effective at preventing depression relapses and regulating mood, MBCT involves ‘mindfulness meditation’ which teaches the client how to focus on the present moment.

2. Medication – once the go-to approach at treating all types of depression, medication is now just one of many kinds of treatment. Types of medication include anti-depressants, tranquilisers and mood stabilisers.

3. Physical treatments – At the other end of the spectrum are physical treatments like electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), a procedure used to treat depression resistant to gentler forms of treatment. It involves passing a carefully controlled electric current through the brain, disrupting the brain’s activity and relieving severe depressive or even psychotic symptoms.

What you can do for depression

While it’s essential to seek medical treatment and guidance when dealing with depression, studies suggest that there are things we can do every day to help regulate our mood and feel healthier and happier. These include:

  • exercising regularly
  • eating a healthy diet
  • establishing regular sleep patterns
  • avoiding drugs and alcohol.

Getting help with depression

If you or anyone you know needs mental health help, there are services you can reach out to for extra support.

In addition to PSYCH2U, HCF members can also access a range of online courses through THIS WAY UP+, a not-for-profit initiative developed by experienced psychiatrists and clinical psychologists, to help you take control of your mental wellbeing. Clinically proven to help, the courses understand and improve mental challenges like stress, insomnia, worry, anxiety and depression.

If you're struggling with depression or anxiety, and need to speak to someone now, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Where to find more mental health help:

First published in Health Agenda magazine
Updated June 2021

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