According to the Mental Health Foundation, 1 in 4 people will experience some form of mental health problem within the course of a year.
Of these problems, Depression and Anxiety are the most common illnesses. And according to the statistics, the UK has the highest rates of self-harm throughout the whole of Europe, with a total of 400 people per 100,000. Depression is found to be more common in women than in men, with a shocking rate of 1/4 women being treated for some form of depression at some point in their lives.
There are lots of students at the University of Southampton that are suffering from a mental health condition. I have friends here that self harm, friends here that suffer from Anoerexia, and I myself suffer from Depression. In fact, I’ve been suffering from it for five years.
Unfortunately, lots of other students here don’t understand depression. Earlier this year I hit a really low point and was contemplating suicide. Some of my friends still refuse to talk to me because of it, claiming that I was attention seeking.
Depression is not an excuse to attention seek. If anything, attention makes me more uncomfortable. I am writing this article to speak to those at the University at Southampton who share my pain. Depression is a real illness. It is not an excuse to attention-seek, or an exaggeration of sadness. Depression, like every other illness, comes with a number of symptoms. These include a low mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration.
Depression can be helped by anti-depressants. There are a number of different types, and the most well-known of these is called Prozac, or its medical name Fluoexetine. I took Prozac for about 6 months but have recently changed to a different type called Mirtazapine, which helps me sleep. Anti-depressants work by altering the levels of neurotransmitters (chemicals) in the brain.
However, anti-depressants are unlikely to cure depression. Statistics from The Royal College of Psychiatry estimates that between 50-65% of people treated with an antidepressant for depression will benefit from their effects. Although I find that Mirtazapine helps me to sleep, it doesn’t really help my mood. I go through moments where I feel completely hopeless. Being depressed is like being overwhelmed with sadness. You can’t concentrate on anything else. All you can do is sit there and cry.
I can see how it’s hard for a “normal” individual to understand depression. Sure, everyone gets sad. What makes depression so different?
Like I said before, depression is more of an overwhelming than a feeling. This is why depressed individuals consider self-harming or committing suicide. Feelings become too much to handle which is why therapy can also help those with depression. Talking to another person about our feelings helps us to cope with them, as we are expressing them in a healthy way. It has often been thought that a combination of anti-depressants and counselling can help someone recover from depression.
There are lots of different types of therapy, including the cognitive behavioural therapy (which encourages challenging our negative thoughts), group therapy, and psychotherapy (which involves focusing on you past to help recover from present issues). I have used a combination of CBT and psychotherapy to help with my depression.
So, what should you do if you believe that you or one of your friends is suffering from depression? Firstly, check the symptoms. If they have been feeling low for a long period of time, have had changes in appetite and/or sleeping patterns, and have been contemplating suicide or self-harm, then it is likely that they are depressed. The first port of call is your GP, who will prescribe you medication and/or refer you onto therapy.
However, nothing is more valuable than support. If you believe that one of your friends is suffering from depression, they need you. Depression is a lonely and horrible illness and I’ve found that having a friend support you is more useful a therapy than counselling or antidepressants.
Depression isn’t an excuse, it’s a real illness.