With a little help from our friends

When someone says “I’m depressed”, we think that they are sad. We imagine that a cold shower would help. We want to say “Don’t worry. Be happy”. We want to advise our sad colleague to go to the cinema or treat themselves to some new clothes. We want them to stop being sad.

We are wrong.

Depression has nothing to do with sadness. It is an illness. A serious illness. Look around your office or your group of friends. There will be at least one person who has suffered, or maybe is suffering, a serious depression. One in ten people get depression. That person will have three or four more depressive attacks in their life.

But it is still surprising that in the 21st century there is still some stigma attached to depression. Many people do not go to the doctor because they feel embarrassed about it. They imagine other people will think they are weak.

The best thing you can do for a depressed person is accept that they are depressed and give then permission to be depressed! That sounds strange, doesn’t it? Comments like ‘But what have you to be sad about?’ and ’ It’s just a phase you’re going through’ are counterproductive.

A depressed person needs to feel valued. S/he needs to feel that friends will be there whatever happens.

Depression is really, really, really frightening. One symptom is having suicidal thoughts. A friend of mine who was suffering from depression told me that the darkest moment in his life (worse than the death of his father) was when the doctor asked him if he was having suicidal thoughts. My friend was one of the most positive and optimistic people I had ever known.

My friend’s depression started as a dull pain in his chest and insomnia. Then crying for no reason. Not enjoying anything. Not wanting to get out of the bed in the morning. Drinking alcohol more than is wise. Steadily it worsened until (“Thanks to God” says my friend) he went to a doctor who diagnosed depression and prescribed anti-depressants (‘Seroxat’) and sleeping pills (‘Orfidel’).

He’s okay now; although naturally worried about a repetition. He’s changed. Now ordinary, day-to-day problems don’t worry him. I suppose you can’t appreciate daylight until you’ve seen a very black night.

J K Rowling, the author of the best-selling Harry Potter books, sufered from depression. In her books there are characters called ‘Dementors’. Rowling has admitted that these represent depression.

“It is like having your soul removed from your body,” she says.

Some people think that if a person talks about suicide, they will not attempt it. That is complete rubbish! If anyone you know mentions committing suicide, take it seriously. Help them to get help.

If, after weeks of being ‘down’,your friend says ‘I don’t have depression, this is just “a phase” which will pass.’ . Help them to get help!

If your friend says “If people find out I’m depressed, they’ll think I’m crazy”. Don’t lie to them. It’s probably true. But it’s better than depression. Help them to get help.

If your friend says “But I don’t want to become addicted to pills!”. Anti.depressants are not addictive. Help them to get help.

If your friend says “Going to the doctor won’t work for me.” Well, that’s just the depression talking. Help them to get help.

Life is beautiful and there are so many joys to be experienced. Depression sometimes gets in the way. And it shouldn’t. We all get by, with a little help from our friends.

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