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Depression

Depression is a serious, common, mental health problem. In Australia 1 in 4 females and 1 in 6 males will experience depression in their lifetime. It is also worth noting that 1 in 6 women experience postnatal depression. The combination of these figures with the loss of a baby is a cause for concern. Those who are depressed often feel lonely, isolated, helpless, worthless and lost. It is the leading cause of suicide.

It’s important that you are aware of and are able to recognize these symptoms before they develop over an extended period of time. If you suspect you may have depression, e.g. experiencing symptoms for more than 2 weeks, please see your doctor or health professional sooner rather than later.

Symptoms

The symptoms and their severity may be different for each person.

  • Disturbances to normal sleeping patterns (too much or too little, difficulty in getting to sleep or being unable to wake up in the morning, frequent waking during the night)
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Loss of pleasure in activities, loss of passion for previous hobbies/interests
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Excessive crying and being easily upset
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Restlessness, agitation and irritability
  • Headaches, digestive disorders or nausea
  • Extended feelings of sadness, anxiety and hopelessness
  • Impaired concentration, difficulty in remembering and making decisions
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness

Causes

There are many known causes of depression:

  • Environmental factors(death of a loved one, loss of job, marital breakdown, separation, alcohol & drug use)
  • Biological factors (chemical imbalance in the brain)
  • Genetic Pre-disposition
  • Personality type
  • Prior depressive episode.

Treatment

The type of depression being experienced will depend on the treatment needed.

  • Behavioural and lifestyle changes
  • Counselling
  • Medication
  • Alternative therapies

How Can You Help Your Friend?

People who are depressed may feel as though others cannot help them, may be in denial or aren’t even aware that they are depressed. If you suspect your friend is depressed, offer your support during this time.

  • let them know you have noticed a difference in their behaviour
  • encourage them to see a doctor
  • offer to make the appointment
  • offer to take them to the appointment
  • encourage them to catch up, meet for lunch, do some exercise, join a sport
  • help them to find and join a support group, see a counsellor.
  • let them know you are there to talk to anytime
  • check in on them to see how they are really coping and feeling

Most importantly, as a friend, remember to look after yourself as well.