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Mental Health and Wellbeing

What is Depression

In its simplest form depression is a feeling of sadness, unhappiness or being fed up that last for a few weeks or months. Most people will go through periods of feeling down or sad in their lifetime, but when these feelings persist, it could be clinical depression. Far too many people believe depression to be trivial, something that someone can just “snap out of” and they could not be further from the truth. Depression is a genuine health condition but luckily, with the right treatment and support, most people will go on to make a full recovery.

What causes Depression?

In some cases, depression can be triggered by a life event, which has a deep impact on the person:

  • The loss of a family member or friend
  • Bereavement
  • Losing a job
  • Giving birth

People who have a family history of depression are more likely to have some experience with it themselves.

However, in some cases, people can become depressed without an obvious reason.

Physical Symptoms

Physical symptoms of depression can include:

  • Changes in appetite or weight (Most commonly being unintentional weight loss or gain)
  • Moving or speaking more slowly or sluggish
  • Constipation
  • Disturbed sleep (Finding it difficult to fall asleep, waking up too early or having difficulty staying awake)
  • Lack of energy
  • Low sex drive or loss of libido
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Changes to menstrual cycle

Psychological Symptoms

Psychological symptoms of depression can include:

  • Continuous sadness or low mood
  • Having low self-esteem
  • Feeling hopeless or helpless
  • Feeling guilt-ridden
  • Feeling tearful
  • Feeling irritable or having an intolerant of others
  • Having no motivation or interest in thing you normally would
  • Not getting any enjoyment out of life
  • Finding it difficult to make decisions
  • Feeling anxious or worried
  • Having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself

Changes to behaviour

Changes in a person’s behaviour is common when someone is experiencing depression, these can include:

  • Avoiding contact with friends and family
  • Taking part in fewer social activities
  • Having difficulties in your home, work or family life

Severity of Depression

Depression can come on gradually so it can often be difficult to notice when something is wrong. Many people who suffer with some form of depression try to cope with their symptoms themselves, often without realising that they are unwell. Sometimes it can take a family member or friend to notice something and suggest that something is wrong.

Medical professionals describe depression based on how serious it is.

  • Mild depression is when it has some, although limited, effect on your daily life. For example, a person might find that they are having trouble concentrating at work or finding the motivation to partake in activities that they would have previously enjoyed.

  • Moderate depression has a more significant impact on a person’s daily life.

  • Severe depression interferes with a person’s daily life and can make it feel almost impossible to get through the day. Some people who suffer from severe depression may experience psychotic symptoms.


Treatments for depression can vary through self-care and help, talking therapies and medication. Treatments also vary depending on the severity of the depression.

For mild depression there are three main treatments to follow:

  • If a GP diagnoses a person with mild depression, they may suggest the watchful waiting method. This involves being monitored for 2 weeks to see if the depression gets better without medical intervention.
  • There is also evidence to suggest that exercising can help with depression and is another main treatment. Exercise groups might be a useful tool for a person with mild depression as it allows them to exercise and maintain social contact with others.
  • Self-help through talking therapies, whether talking with a friend or using a local psychological therapy service, is a good way for people to work through any issues that might be causing their depression and could help to ease their mind.

For someone who has mild to moderate depression and feels that they aren’t improving with the above treatments; they might find more medical talking therapies useful. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and counselling can help a person get to the source of their depression and use a third party to discuss their health and other issues.

For someone who may be experiencing moderate to severe depression, it may be beneficial for a person to seek out help with dedicated mental health teams.

  • GPs can prescribe antidepressant medications that are believed to help increase the chemicals in the brain that are linked to mood and emotions.
  • Combination therapy may be advised by a GP. This course of action combines taking antidepressants and having talking therapies. A combination of medication and CBT usually works better than having just one of these treatments.
  • If a person’s depression is that severe, they may be referred to a dedicated mental health team made up of specialist nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists and occupational therapists. These teams work together to provide an intensive specialist talking treatment alongside prescribed medication.

Other types of Depression

There are various types of depression, aside from clinical, and some conditions can include depression as a symptom. These can include:

  • Postnatal depression. It is common for new parents to develop a form of depression after the birth of a baby. Postnatal depression is treated in similar ways to clinical depression, through talking therapies and antidepressant medication. One in ten new mothers will experience postnatal depression, commonly known as baby blues, and it is important to talk to others, whether that is the midwife, health visitor or GP.
  • Bipolar Disorder. Also known as “Manic depression”, people who suffer from bipolar disorder can experience periods of time where they feel severe depression or excessively high mood (mania). Manic depression often showcases with the same symptoms as clinical depression, however the spells of mania can include some harmful behaviour, such as spending excessive amounts of money, unsafe sex and addictive activities.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is commonly known as “winter depression” and is a type of depression that occurs with the changing of the seasons, usually surrounding winter.

Things that can help

It is common for people to suffer with a low mood for a short period of time, anyone who experiences it for longer than 2 weeks should consult their doctor. People can also seek out support groups in their local area to help ease the burden on the mind and receive some help.

Things to avoid

It is wise for people who are experiencing depression to avoid having too much alcohol. While you may want to drink more as a way of coping, alcohol is not a long term solution and can often make the issue worse.