What you must know about depression

What do you know about depression?

Big red question mark with little which character of a man leaning against it

Before you go any further, count on your fingers the things you know about depression. Got it? Okay, keep that in mind. Let’s see if we can add to your knowledge here.

Trigger warning; the topics covered in this article may trigger emotional responses and you may wish to stop reading now.

So, what is depression?

Coloured image of man sitting on the floor, knees up and head leaning on his knees. Does he know what depression is?
Depression in men – Image by Holger Langmaier at Pixabay

Depression is a long lasting low mood disorder that affects your thoughts, feelings and behaviours. It can also affect your ability to feel pleasure, even in the things you used to enjoy. It can can render you unable to do everyday things and eliminate any interest in regular activities. And sometimes you may feel as if life isn’t worth living.

The NHS stipulates that depression is more than just a feeling of being unhappy or fed up for a few days. If you suffer from lasting feelings of unhappiness and hopelessness, and you are feeling tearful or you are loosing interest in everyday activities, make sure to take the depression self-assessment on their website.

Depression is a genuine health condition, it’s real and it has real soul-destroying symptoms. You can’t just ‘get over it’ or ‘snap out of it’, as some might suggest, and it’s most certainly not a sign of weakness.

Who does depression affect?

It can affect anybody, and it can also impact hugely on the depressed person’s family, carers or friends. Depression knows no boundaries and cuts across religion, faith, class, creed, race, gender, or age. Take a look at the following statistics, which have been borrowed from MHFA England:

  • Depression is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide and a major contributor to suicide and coronary heart disease
  • 24% of women and 13% of men in England are diagnosed with depression in their lifetime
  • Depression often co-occurs with other mental health issues and substance abuse
  • Depression occurs in 2.1% of young people aged 5-19

Do you know what causes depression?

Well, the jury’s out on this one. There is no one cause fits all with depression and there’s lots of different theories. However, as with lots of mental health disorders, a variety of factors could be involved, such as:

There are happy hormones such as dopamine, serotonin and endorphins, but also stress hormones that can trigger depression
Hormones might trigger depression
  • Life events such as loss (death, divorce, seperation), redundancy, loss of job status, loss of income, or loss of home appear to have a role to play in depression
  • Biological differences. People with depression seem to have physical changes in their brains.
  • Genetic/inherited traits. Depression is more common in people with blood relatives who also have it. But once again, it’s unclear and we can wonder — is it nature or nurture? Researchers are still trying to identify the genes involved in causing depression.
  • Brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring brain chemicals that likely play a role in depression.
  • Hormones. Changes in the body’s balance of hormones may be involved in triggering depression. These changes might occur during pregnancy or in the weeks or months after the birth (postpartum) and from pre-menstrual tension, the menopause or thyroid problems, or any one of a number of other conditions. See your GP; to rule out any other causes.
  • Low socio-economic status such as income, education, occupation, social class, or wealth and location/environment might also be the cause of depression.

How do people with depression think?

Educate yourself about depression, it will help to keep you motivated.
Changes in sleeping pattern may be a symptom of depression

Depression affects different people in different ways, and some describe it as feelings of sadness, loss, or anger. I’ve had all those feelings, and the thought of ending my life was/is never far away. But because I didn’t want to leave my sons with that legacy, I thought of how I could make it look like an accident. What if I run my car off the road? What if I fall in front of that lorry hurtling down the road on my way to work?

Obviously I can’t speak for others who’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts, but I’ve listened to many patients who’ve survived the experience. I now understand we had many things in common. One of which was that we didn’t want to die, it was that we couldn’t bear the pain, and if things were better we would choose to live. But there’s always impulsivity, or a perhaps window of opportunity arises and some people take it.

So, if you’re having thoughts of dying by suicide, please talk to someone urgently. Also, if you know someone who’s depressed and suicidal, please speak out. Ask them if they are having these thoughts — and soon.

If you’ve had a combination of the symptoms (below) for at least two weeks or more, and for most of the day, nearly every day, you might be depressed.

Symptoms of depression:

  • changes in eating patterns – either loss of, or increased appetite, weight gain or loss (when not dieting)
  • changes in your regular sleeping pattern like sleeping too much, too little, not at all, or waking regularly in the early hours of the morning
  • tiredness, fatigue or lack of energy where you can’t even do the little things
  • loss of interest in things like sex or activities you used to enjoy
  • unexplained physical problems, such as constant headaches, neck or back pain
  • feeling tearful, sad, empty, worthless or hopeless
  • feelings of self-loathing, self-blame, guilt, or fixating on past failures
  • having angry outbursts, being irritable or getting frustrated, even over little things
  • feeling anxious, agitated or restless and find yourself pacing or fidgeting
  • feeling lethargic, slowed down thinking, speaking or body movements
  • trouble concentrating, thinking, remembering, or making decisions
  • frequent negative and intrusive thoughts or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, writing suicide letters – if this is you, please seek immediate support, from your GP in the first instance. You can also find a list of useful mental health contact numbers here.

Remember

This list above is not exhaustive and you may have other symptoms. If you are experiencing the above symptoms regularly, please speak to your GP or another mental health professional. If you’re reluctant to seek treatment, talk to someone you trust, like a loved one, a friend or faith leader. Recognizing that you’re depressed is essential to getting the right help. The earlier you receive support and attention, the better the outcome.

What helps with depression

Did you know full recovery from depression is a possibility?
You can make a full recovery from depression

I deliberately wrote ‘helps’ because currently, that’s all we have. There isn’t a cure as such. But the good news is, that with the right treatment and support, most people with depression can make a full recovery. Depression affects millions of people worldwide, and there are varying treatment options available. These might be anything from lifestyle changes, talking therapy to medication.

Prescription drugs and the treatment of depression

If you are suffering from depression, your doctor may choose to prescribe antidepressants. Antidepressants are medications used to treat depression. There are a variety of medications that can be used to treat depression. These antidepressants all work to take away or reduce the symptoms.

Antidepressants are classified into different types depending on their structure and the way that they work.

Seven types of antidepressant drugs:

  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • Norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs)
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitors (SARIs)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and tetracyclic antidepressants (TeCAs)
  • Miscellaneous antidepressants.

Popular medicine for depression

The most popular medicine used in the treatment of depression are the serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Popular SSRI’s include names such as Prozac (fluoxetine), Luvox (fluvoxamine), Paxil (paroxetine) and Lexapro (escitalopram).

Names of miscellaneous antidepressants are Wellbutrin (bupropion) – also used in the treatment of nicotine addiction – Trintellix (vortioxetine) and Spravato (esketamine).

Never take antidepressant prescription drugs without a prescription from a licensed psychiatrist or mental health care doctor.

Did you previously know :

  • that depression is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide?
  • and a major contributor to suicide and coronary heart disease?
  • the huge array of possible causes?
  • what causes depression?
  • that anyone can be affected by depression?
  • it can be treated successfully and people with depression can make a full recovery?

Over to you

What do you think?
Clipart.com

Okay my lovelies, for those of you who are not mental health professionals, did you learn anything new? For those of you ‘in the know’, have I missed something/anything? What are your experiences of depression? Maybe you have some tips to cope with depression? I’m looking forward to your comments, suggestions or questions.

In the meantime, you might find the following posts interesting:

Related: The best depression blogs of the year (1). Depression, anger and narcissistic vulnerability from the perspective of a depressed patient (2).

Facts about male suicide

How much do you know about male suicide?

What is the definition of suicide?

Black and white image showing shadow of a man holding a noose that's hanging down - male suicide?
Male suicide — Istock photos

It’s Men’s Mental Health week 15th – 21st June 2020 and a timely reminder to repost this article, Facts about male suicide.

Trigger warning; the topics covered in this article may trigger emotional responses and you may wish to stop reading now.

The term suicide describes the intentional act of taking one’s own life. In this article, we’re talking about suicide in the conventional sense, where someone acts upon self-destructive thoughts and feelings.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) definition is: Suicide includes all deaths from intentional self-harm for persons aged 10 and over. Suicide also describes deaths caused by injury or poisoning, where the intent was undetermined for those aged 15 and over.

UK statistics for male suicide

The incidence of completed suicide is vastly higher among males than females among all age groups in most of the world. As of 2015, almost two-thirds of worldwide suicides (representing about 1.5% of all deaths) are committed by men. The following figures come from ONS

  • In 2018, there were 6,507 suicides registered in the UK, an age-standardised rate of 11.2 deaths per 100,000 population
  • Three-quarters of registered deaths in 2018 were among men (4,903 deaths)
  • The UK male suicide rate of 17.2 deaths per 100,000 represents a significant increase from the rate in 2017
  • Males aged 45 to 49 years had the highest age-specific suicide rate (27.1 deaths per 100,000 males); for females, the age group with the highest rate was also 45 to 49 years, at 9.2 deaths per 100,000
  • As seen in previous years, the most common method of suicide in the UK was hanging, accounting for 59.4% of all suicides among males

What are the risk factors for attempting suicide?

Black and white image of man with palms flat against the wall, looking downwards. Is he contemplating suicide
Risk factors for suicide —Source unknown
  1. Mental health disorders including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, anxiety disorders, substance abuse including alcoholism and the use of benzodiazepines.
  2. Those who have previously attempted suicide are at higher risk for future attempts.
  3. Having a family history of suicide or impulsive behaviour is also believed to increase risk of suicidality.
  4. Some suicides are impulsive acts due to stress i.e. financial difficulties, relationship problems such as breakups, or bullying.
  5. When there’s an economic downturn, resulting in increased unemployment, for example, there tends to be an associated increase in suicide – typically 18-24 months after the downturn, BBC. One 2015 study found that for every 1% increase in unemployment there is a 0.79% increase in the suicide rate, NCBI.
  6. Older men are at increased risk for suicide, and they complete suicide at a higher rate than any other age group. They’re especially at risk because they don’t usually seek counselling for depression or other mental illnesses, Psychcom.
  7. Other risk factors can include:
  • Access to firearms
  • Isolation from others
  • History of physical or sexual abuse
  • Having a terminal or chronic illness
  • People can become suicidal when they feel overwhelmed by life’s challenges, lack hope for the future, and they see no other way out

What symptoms might you notice?

Black and white image man who looks like he's about to jump off a bridge
Jumping from a bridge

The obvious sign of someone who’s considering suicide would be talking about it, saying things like “I’m going to kill myself”, “I wish I could jump in front of a train” or “I feel like jumping off that bridge”. However, there are many other signs that can indicate risk and the more there are, the higher the risk for suicide:

  • being depressed, sad and low
  • not taking interest in usual hobbies
  • increased anger, agitation, anxiety, shame, guilt or humiliation
  • isolating self from others, not taking calls or answering the door
  • stockpiling pills or sourcing a weapon
  • driving recklessly
  • increased aggression, agitation
  • not communicating with friends or family in usual way
  • giving away possessions or writing a will
  • increased drug and alcohol use
  • searching out suicide information on the internet
  • wishing you didn’t exist or that you’ve never been born
  • feeling like a burden to everyone, that there’s no purpose to life and feeling hopeless or worthless

The above list is not exhaustive and you may have other symptoms. If you’re experiencing the above symptoms regularly, please speak to your GP or another mental health professional. If you’re reluctant to seek treatment, talk to someone you trust, like a loved one, a friend or faith leader.

Last but not least

Depressed male — Image by Holger Langmaier at pixabay.com

Suicide is a hugely sensitive issue and the very nature of a death by suicide means we can’t fully know the reasons behind it. And talking about it can be really scary but the more open we are, the more likely we are in helping someone seek the support they need.

Some people think that if you ask someone if they’re having suicidal thoughts, you’ll put the idea in their head. This isn’t true and if you suspect that someone is considering suicide, it’s really important that you do ask them directly “Are you thinking about suicide?” Don’t be afraid to do this, it will actually decrease their risk because someone is willing to talk about it. If they do tell you that they’re having thoughts of suicide, offer to stay with them and to listen. If they have the method and means to kill themselves, do not leave them alone and let them know you need to contact someone of their choice. But do not place yourself at risk. Encourage them to talk and to seek urgent professional support, helping them find it if necessary.

Over to you

Clipart.com

As with my last post, for those of you who are not mental health professionals, did you learn anything new? For those of you ‘in the know’, have I missed something/anything? I’m looking forward to your comments, suggestions or questions.

In the meantime, you might find the following articles useful:

NHS Choices – Suicide

Suicide

Comprehensive help and information from NHS Choices with links to external websites.

The Samaritans

Tel: 116 123

samaritans.org

You can cope

Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year. We provide a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them. Please call 116 123 email jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find details of the nearest branch.

Shout

Text Shout to 85258

giveusashout.org

Shout is the UK’s first free 24/7 text service for anyone in crisis anytime, anywhere. It’s a place to go if you’re struggling to cope and you need immediate help.

Mind

MindInfoline: 0300 123 3393

mind.org.uk

Suicidal feelings

Elefriends online support community

Mind helps people take control of their mental health. We do this by providing high-quality information and advice, and campaigning to promote and protect good mental health for everyone.

CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably)

Helpline: 0800 58 58 58

thecalmzone.net

The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) works to prevent male suicide and offers support services for any man who is struggling or in crisis. CALM’s helpline 0800 58 58 58 and web-chat are for men in the UK who need to talk or find information and support. The services are open 5pm–midnight daily and are free, anonymous and confidential. For access or to find more information visit thecalmzone.net

ChildLine

Helpline: 0800 11 11

childline.org.uk

Coping with suicidal feelings

ChildLine is a counselling service for children and young people. You can contact ChildLine in these ways: You can phone on 0800 1111, send us an email, have a 1-2-1 chat with us, send a message to Ask Sam and you can post messages to the ChildLine message boards.

YoungMinds

Helpline: 0808 802 5544

youngminds.org.uk

Suicidal feelings

Parents’ Information Service gives advice to parents or carers who may be concerned about the mental health or emotional well being of a child or young person.

The Mix

Helpline: 0808 808 4994

themix.org.uk

Suicide

Life’s tough, we know that. It can throw a lot your way and make it hard to know what the hell to do with it all. So, welcome to The Mix. Whether you’re 13, 25, or any age in between, we’re here to take on the embarrassing problems, weird questions, and please-don’t-make-me-say-it-out-loud thoughts you have. We give you the information and support you need to deal with it all.

Students Against Depression

Suicide and self harm

Surviving suicidal thoughts

Students Against Depression is a website offering advice, information, guidance and resources to those affected by low mood, depression and suicidal thinking. Alongside clinically-validated information and resources it presents the experiences, strategies and advice of students themselves – after all, who are better placed to speak to their peers about how depression can be overcome.

Maytree

Tel: 020 7263 7070

maytree.org.uk

At Maytree, we provide people in the midst of a suicidal crisis with the opportunity for rest and reflection, and give them the opportunity to stay in a calm, safe and relaxed environment. We can support four “guests” at a time. The service runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Our warm and friendly volunteers and staff team spend up to 77 hours with each guest over their stay, giving them the opportunity to talk through their fears, thoughts and troubles.