Stomp out the stigma and value mental health
Twenty years ago, I found myself battling depression and didn’t even realise it. I wasn’t weepy or tired. It was just that everything was a major effort. The joy had gone out of life. I resented the demands on me, the activities that I had previously welcomed.
For years I had coped, but as time went by I felt like I was operating on autopilot; my sense of duty and my responsibilities were all that were keeping me going. Driving home from work, I would be tempted to just drive through a red light. A serious car accident would be a relief, would put a stop to the madness and give me a rest. Luckily, the reality was enough to stop me: I’d probably end up smashed up in hospital and my problems would only be compounded. I couldn’t discuss my feelings with anyone. I felt ashamed, weak, and inadequate.
One morning I just couldn’t get out of bed. I was finally forced to seek help. My GP diagnosed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, explained its link with depression, and gave me hope that eventually it would lift.
A year later, I saw things very differently. I realised that my family and friends couldn't understand what I was going through and they couldn’t always help in the ways that I needed them to. My family was already doing everything they could. From my position of great need, with the tunnel vision of depression, I just couldn’t see it.
People suffering mental illness don’t always display typical signs, and their behavior can often be misunderstood. They often appear to be ok on the surface, but on the inside they feel like there is nothing to look forward to, even when they are surrounded by blessings.
What can you do?
1. Recognise the symptoms (in yourself and others). These can include reduced energy, lack of motivation, less enjoyment, sleep and appetite problems, poor concentration and memory.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask if someone feels suicidal, or talk to someone if you feel this way.
3. Visit a doctor for advice. Today’s depression treatments are very effective.
4. As a friend / supporter, simply be there! You can’t fix the problem but a listening ear, someone who says they care, can make a huge difference.
5. Regular exercise helps release cortisol and serotonin, giving a natural high.
6. Practice gratitude: find three things each day that make you smile or feel grateful.
7. Help others: Doing something for someone else can take the focus off your issues and lift your mood. Regular volunteer work has a cumulative effect and gives you a reason to drag yourself out of bed.
8. What is your life’s purpose? What values give your life meaning and fulfilment? Each day, do something, no matter how small, to work towards a goal.
“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you."
Jeremiah 29: 11-12
For further information, see:
The Black Dog Institute: http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au
Beyond Blue: http://www.beyondblue.org.au
Smiling Mind: smilingmind.com.au/
Posted October 14, 2016 in Our blog