We can all feel sad or low at times. Sometimes these feelings are in direct relation to something which has happened, for example a loss or the end of a relationship, or they can be related to physical change such as an illness.
Depression is very different to feeling sad or down. People who are depressed experience a deep or intense level of lower mood over a long period of time. Usually they struggle to engage in activities or with people.
Even if they have previously enjoyed something they may find this enjoyment stops. They can find it hard to complete even simple daily tasks like making a bowl of cereal. At it's worst, people will think about ending their life.
The Beyond Blue website lists the following symptoms as key indicators of depression.
- Moodiness that is out of character
- Increased irritability and frustration
- Finding it hard to take minor personal criticisms
- Spending less time with friends and family
- Loss of interest in food, sex, exercise or other pleasurable activities
- Being awake throughout the night
- Increased alcohol and drug use
- Staying home from work or school
- Increased physical health complaints like fatigue or pain
- Being reckless or taking unnecessary risks (e.g. driving fast or dangerously)
- Slowing down of thoughts and actions.
Feeling just 1 or 2 of these symptoms does not mean someone is suffering depression; however experiencing a number of these symptoms might be an indication of depression. It is important to talk with a professional - such as a counsellor or doctor - to discuss any symptoms you are worried about and to establish a diagnosis. Knowing if you are depressed means you can find ways to deal with it.
If you feel you, or someone you know could be depressed it is very important to seek help and support. Correct diagnosis is the first step in dealing with depression, as this will determine the best way to treat your specific symptoms.
People often express some concern about anti-depressant medication - and it is certainly wise to be clear on the effects of any medication and the reason it may or may not be necessary. There is however some misinformation in the wider community about medical treatments for depression.
Treatment has changed over time and will continue to change. Research suggests that some forms of depression are linked to specific chemical changes in the brain and the levels of serotonin and noradrenaline. It is advisable that you seek to discuss all options clearly with a doctor and/or a counsellor and that you are clear on diagnosis. Medication is usually recommended with counselling, or if someone has not significantly responded to counselling alone.
Counselling Support or Therapy
A qualified counsellor can provide strategies to help deal with depression and the the associated symptoms and feelings. If someone is depressed, counselling is highly recommended regardless of whether they are taking medication as it allows the person to work on underlying issues and develop resilient ways to approach problems. Engaging with counselling may take time, and you may want to explore different therapy types so you can find what suits you.
It will usually be recommended that you attend counselling for a period of time, and regularly, to get the most benefit.
Remember depression can be treated and it is good to get help early.
If you think either yourself or a friend may be feeling depressed, here are some guidelines on what to do and how to react:
- Immediate help; if the situation is critical
If you feel that you or someone else is significantly depressed and at risk of harm you need to:
- Go to a local hospital or phone 000.
- Phone the Mental Health Triage Service / Assessment and Crisis Intervention Service (ACIS) . This is a 24 hour 7 day a week phone assessment service. The service is staffed by qualified professionals, who are trained to make assessments. They can help you determine what needs to happen and can help you take action. They can also make home visits, if necessary.
- Phone Lifeline. This is also a 24 hour, 7 day a week service, staffed by trained volunteers. The service is monitored by professional supervisory staff. Lifeline can provide ‘immediate support' and they can help you work out what you currently need.
- Contact a University Counsellor or phone Counselling Support on 83135663
- The Mend-A-Friend website contains a lot of good information and specific strategies on how to engage someone you think may be depressed or anxious.
- If the situation is not critical
- See a Doctor. If you need help finding a GP ask Counselling Support, Disability Support, International Student Support or the Education and Welfare Service ( Student Care). It is important that you find a Doctor that you can trust. A Doctor will discuss treatment options and may refer you to a Counsellor.
- See a University Counsellor through Counselling Support. You can phone for an appointment - either face to face or a phone appointment - or you can attend drop in any day between 1 and 4. The service is free, confidential and available to all enrolled students.
- See a private Counsellor. There are many private counselling options and the background and qualifications of individual Counsellors will vary. Some services specialise in specific areas of counselling, for example grief or relationship counselling, and others will indicate a preference for a particular style of therapy. Cost can vary widely, and access to services may differ.
Take a look at some of our top tips to help if you are feeling depressed, or know someone who is depressed.