Winston Churchill described his own depression as his, "black dog" making frequent references to it throughout his life. If one of our country's most well known and well respected prime ministers suffered from the taboo of depression, why are we still hiding behind its stigma, refusing to talk about a condition that 1 in 5 of us will suffer with at some point in our lives?
This week, the 22nd - 28th April 2012, is Depression Awareness Week. We're looking to talk about depression; from every angle to every height, we're hoping stories from the depths of this illness to recovery might offer insight and hope.
If you google depression it has two definitions: 1. Severe despondency and dejection, accompanied by feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy. 2. A condition of mental disturbance, typically with lack of energy and difficulty in maintaining concentration or interest in life. These intense, overwhelming feelings affect sufferers in a range of severity - some people will be ill for a short time, gradually gaining strength with support, treatment and often medication. Others will struggle their whole lives, recovery and relapse a part of their daily living. Some will be diagnosed with "manic depression", an illness we now know as bipolar disorder, an illness with incredible highs and lows. And there will be people out there who see no way through their illness, those who attempt to take their own lives and those who tragically succeed.
You see, depression takes many forms. It is not just a phase that affects sullen teenagers or those reaching midlife crisis. It strikes anyone. And yet like most mental illness, as a society we refuse to face it. We refuse to admit that depression will affect not far short of the number of people affected by cancer. Around 15% of those who suffer from clinical depression will die by suicide; in Scotland the number of young men who take their own life has increased by 22% since 1989; and in those aged between 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death.
Shocking? Serious? Preventable? Treatable? Yes.
Depression is serious, the statistics speak for themselves, but help is out there and recovery from depression is possible. There are a number of different treatments out there from CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) to counselling to medication to a mixture of all them. And it's not just the health service which is there to help, there are number of leading charities which are set-up to support those with depression. There is always someone there to listen, whether that is the GP, your best friend, a counsellor or someone on the end of a phone service like Samaritans.
And why am I able to tell you that it does get better? Because I've been there.
I had anorexia nervosa, but with my eating disorder came depression. Anorexia caused such isolation, anxiety and obsession that I became lost in my own world; in this dark narrow minded little world of mine, came further thoughts of self-destruction. For me, a tangled mixture of anorexia and depression made me believe that I deserved to be hurt, that I had no right to be alive. I hurt myself and the scars remain. But they are healed now and show that there is strength in all of us to beat even what we feel might be unbeatable.
The rest of this week, I hope you will read our other stories. And the rest of this year and time to come, I hope we will talk about depression as something we face and are able to move on from. Hope is real.
Check out these links for information and support regarding depression and suicide:
Depression Alliance - a charity designed to assist those affected by depression.
In Comes the Black Dog - an art auction in conjuction with Depression Awareness Week.
TWLOHA - an American charity focused on inspiring hope to those affected by depression.
Love, J x