Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Depression - a timely reminder

Depression is a subject that comes to the fore in the media on a regular basis. It has been in the headlines over the past few days for various reasons, including a new book, 'Reasons to stay Alive' by Matt Haig and some sportspeople talking openly about their own depression. 

Primarily though, the subject of depression hit the headlines due to a non-accidental air crash in France and the discovery that the pilot may have had mental health problems. Sadly, the headline writers and some opinion makers have lumped together the word depression and a possible act of cruel lunacy, to the detriment of the thousands of people who have experienced depressive episodes. Statements have been made when the facts are still unknown.

There have been several instances when I've winced at what I've heard or read, particularly when there have been generalisations. The one that made me shout at the radio was, "Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance and a lack of serotonin." This was followed by the implication that a person can't help it and medication is the answer. Serotonin is a chemical which can be found to influence depression, but depression is much more than a chemical imbalance bought on by one chemical. A chemical that can be changed with something as simple as smiling. 

A colleague and friend, who experienced years of depression and Post -Traumatic Stress Disorder after being severely injured in an IRA bomb blast, made this comment. "Depression is nature's way of telling you to do something different." A challenging statement perhaps?  But from my experience of working with people experiencing depressive episodes, not one person has recovered without changing something about their life choices. Choices that may include, thoughts, behaviours, relationships, work, diet, medication, sleep, lifestyle, amongst others.

It can be 'Catch 22', in that to be able to make changes, one has to feel able to make them and when experiencing depression, the ability to want to do anything at all, can disappear. But change can only be brought about by change.

"If you always do what you've always done, you will always get what you've always got." Henry Ford.

Primarily, in helping anyone with any emotional health problem, it is important to look at how the person is getting their fundamental needs met, as well as the basic ones of food, shelter, clothing and money.

  • Security.
  • Sense of belonging.
  • Close relationship.
  • Time for privacy.
  • Feeling connected to others.
  • Having a purpose in life.
  • Physical and mental challenges.
  • Giving and receiving attention.
Stress, anxiety, anger, depression and addiction can be the result of these needs not being met, for a variety of reasons, including the misuse of imagination (worrying). Problems can also arise when these needs are met, but in unhealthy ways. Most people do not have emotional/mental health problems when their fundamental needs are being met in balanced, healthy ways.

In a previous blog, I wrote about a brush with depressive thinking. Most of my needs were being met, but I was misusing my imagination. I likened changing my choices to 'wading through treacle', but it had to be done to regain my sanity.

Sometimes people find change too hard, because it means a loss of a lifestyle that is supplying needs, but ultimately in unhealthy ways.

My own findings have also been informed by seeing, reading and hearing people whose needs were not met in childhood or perceived that they were not met. Many adults experiencing depression, can often be dragged backwards by thoughts of 'not being good enough'. Thoughts that first arose in childhood.

An Emotional Needs Audit:


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