By Sophie Steventon, Insight Executive, OPEN Media.

What is meant by the term “mental health?”
For me, the term “mental health” is something I hear and talk about almost every day of my life but is something which is so hard to define as it means many different things to everybody. Living with two of my most closest and loved family members with depression, I have experienced the many stages of mental health first-hand.

What is important to acknowledge is that mental health is one of the most important things in our lives at any time and at any stage. Over the course of our lives our mental health can take a hit from events and experiences such as witnessing trauma, the loss of a loved one or even a big life change.

Everyone’s mental health is challenged daily and bad mental health is certainly not limited to those who have had a specific diagnosis of a mental health condition.

We should see our mental health as a continuum

It goes without saying that we all have good days and bad days. Some days are spent jumping out of bed and into work with a spring in your step, ready for a day of productivity whereas other days getting out of bed will be an enormous struggle and all you want to do is pull the duvet back over your head and sleep the day away.

Over the course of the years watching my loved once experience depression, I have seen weeks of not getting out of bed but not sleeping, self-destructive behaviour and self harm but with that, also weeks of laughter, self-love and some of the most wonderful times of our lives as a family. This is how our mental health works, it continually changes and throughout our lives we will all ride the wave.

Mental health conditions

There are variety of mental health conditions; Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Eating Disorders and many more. All conditions present themselves in various emotional, cognitive and physical ways.

For this blog, I would like to focus on depression and how to help from an outsider’s perspective. As mentioned earlier, I have lived with depression indirectly through my family members and know it is extremely important to know what to look out for and how to help.

Focus on depression, how is the amount of people being diagnosed growing?

Data from the ONS looking at self-reported depression rates in England shows that post-pandemic there is now one in five adults experiencing depression symptoms. More research from mental health charity Mind has shown that 68% of respondents from a survey carried out said that their mental health has been affected by the pandemic. Although these figures are worrying, they are not surprising with the past 18 months plus we have all been through.

Depression in its mildest form can mean just being in low spirits however, at its most severe, it can become life threatening and cause individuals to feel suicidal. By describing what kind of symptoms a person is experiencing, they can be diagnosed with a specific type of depression. It is also important to remember that people can move between mild, moderate and severe depression during one episode or across a number of episodes.

Signs of depression

There are many different signs and symptoms of depression and everyones experience will vary. With depression common feelings include; being down, upset and tearful, restless, isolated, no self confidence and suicidal. This list is not exhaustive and depression can present itself in many different ways.

If you think someone is suffering from depression it is a good idea to look out for certain behaviours and patterns in this behaviour. Are they avoiding social events? Do they have difficult speaking or making decisions? Are they struggling to concentrate? Are they consuming more tobacco, alcohol or drugs than usual? Have you noticed their appetite has completely gone or in comparison grown massively? These are all telltale signs of a person who is experiencing depression.

If you are worried about someone and you feel like they are displaying the behaviours above then don’t be afraid to reach out and act. Put it into perspective. What is the worst that could happen? It is always best to ask and risk offending said person than to not, and in turn not be that person that could have made a difference and helped them.

How can you give support?

Your role as a family member or friend to a person recovering from depression can be a crucial one. It is important to be kind to them first and foremost, listen, and try not to use phrases such as ‘you could have it much worse’ or ‘I know how you feel’. Mental health charity Mind have complied a useful list of suggestions on how to help:

  1. Support them to get help (but don’t force them!)
  2. Be open about depression. Let them know that it’s ok to talk about what they’re experiencing.
  3. Keep in touch. Reach out and tell them you care and that you’re thinking of them.
  4. Don’t be critical. Learn about how they’re feeling and never, ever judge. Never tell them to ‘cheer up’. Choose your words carefully!
  5. Keep a balance. Help them but still encourage them to do things for themselves.
  6. Take care of yourself. Your mental health is important too!

Useful information

More info about depression and other mental health conditions can be found at-

mind.org.uk

anxiety.org.uk

thecalmzone.net

depressionuk.org

Resources

Mind

World Health Organisation (WHO)

St John Ambulance

Office of National Statistics (ONS)

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