The truth about depression and getting help
Blue Monday is the third Monday of January; informally the most depressing day of the year. Many argue the loneliness felt, the hit to our bank accounts, the long nights, the lack of sunlight and the colder weather all contribute to our general “blue” mood. But there is a big difference from feeling down and feeling depressed and in some severe cases, suicidal.
So, let’s talk about depression.
Depression is a mood disorder that affects 8% of Canadian adults in their lifetime. Additionally, more than a quarter of a million Canadian youth experience major depression each year. While we mostly recognize it as feelings of sadness and apathy, it can actually be situational or chronic. It can manifest itself in many ways including feelings of unworthiness, helplessness and even agitation and anger.
Although symptoms can vary from severe to mild, depression can look like:
- Sadness or loss of pleasure in activities you once enjoyed (common)
- Changes in appetite leading to weight loss or gain, unrelated to dieting
- Insomnia, or increased fatigue and exhaustion
- Inability to sit still or in contrast, slowed movements or speech
- Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, inadequacy
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
For those people battling depression, and for their surrounding friends and families, a big question is always “what brought this on?” The truth is, it could be a number of things, including:
- Social & family environment
- Continuous exposure to violence, neglect, abuse or poverty
- Health conditions
- Life events and experiences
Unfortunately, there could be no obvious reason at all that explains why a person is depressed. What is important is that access to help, whether professional or otherwise is sought.
There is a myth that some people hold true, that depression can simply be washed away with a good day at the spa, or a fun night out. That isn’t the case for true depression. Sometimes people may look absolutely fine, yet they are still suffering in silence.
Symptoms of depression affect emotions, thoughts, physical activity, and behaviours. And battling depression on a daily basis is lonely, exhausting to manage, and for some it can make completing simple tasks almost impossible. It is a serious mental illness, and due to Covid-19 and increased isolation, we’re seeing numbers of those facing depression rise.
So what can you do about it?
If you believe you or someone you know is suffering from depression don’t handle it alone.
Knowledge is power. Learn as much as you possibly can about depression. Learn about its causes and symptoms, which we have briefly listed above.
Understand the warning signs, and if you or someone in your life seems to be feeling worse, you can identify the signs and seek help.
Identify your triggers. Do the work to learn more about yourself, what prompted depressive episodes and what steps you can take to avoid them or manage those triggers in the future.
Connect with family or friends. Although this doesn’t help everyone, don’t be afraid to share your struggle with those closest to you. Having an understanding ear can sometimes help you work through difficult times.
Seek help from a medical or mental health professional who can perform an assessment and recommend treatment.
If a professional has diagnosed you or someone in your life with depression, there are a number of treatment options including referral to a psychiatrist who may recommend medication.
Alternatively, you may connect with a psychotherapist (like us) who may focus on the psychological, behavioural, interpersonal and situational causes surrounding depression. A psychotherapist may
- help clients identify negative thinking patterns;
- explore their habitual thoughts and behaviours;
- identify problem areas in clients’ daily lives;
- suggest a plan to help clients regain a sense of control in their lives;
- request patients maintain a diary;
- recommend techniques like progressive muscular relaxation and deep breathing exercises; and
- help clients heal through cognitive restructuring.
If you’re feeling better, congratulations are in order! But, just because you have a good week, doesn’t mean you can neglect your mental health moving forward. Treat your mind like your body, and work on consistent improvement. Here are some things you or your loved one can consider towards maintaining recovery:
Take vitamin D: Research has shown that vitamin D may play an important role in regulating your mood. Talk to your doctor or a pharmacist about this option.
Get regular exercise: as this may create positive feelings and improve your mood.
Take care of your body: by getting quality sleep, eating a healthy/balanced diet, and avoiding alcohol consumption (which is a depressant).
If you notice the warning signs above, it is always better to ask for help instead of ignoring the problem. It will only get worse if left unaddressed. Whether or not you decide to seek treatment from us or you’re trying to muster the courage to get help from someone else please remember; your feelings and the feelings of your loved ones are valid. No one needs to go through depression alone.
We continue to be grateful for all of our dedicated supporters who donate to our fund and help us provide low-to-no cost mental health services for those in our community who need it most.
If you’re looking for other mental health supports in Ontario, check out this list of resources to get the best help for your needs.