Supporting your partner through depression

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Supporting your partner through depression

According to the World Health Organisation 350 million people worldwide experience some form of depression. That means you probably know at least one person are with depression. Also, chances are you will be in a relationship, living with, or married to a person with depression at some point in your life. It may sometimes feel as if their bad days outweigh the good. You may even blame yourself, wondering why you aren’t good enough to bring them happiness. However, this is not good for anybody. It will not help you support your partner.

It is important to identify the symptoms of depression. If your partner displays five or more of these symptoms for longer than two weeks, it is definitely worth having a calm chat about visiting the doctor. Symptoms of depression fall into two categories: psychological, and physical. The first step in supporting your partner through depression is learning about what they are going through. The most common symptoms of depression include, but are not limited to:

Psychological symptoms

  • Difficulty concentrating, poor memory and trouble making decisions

  • Feelings of guilt and worthlessness

  • Feeling hopeless and pessimistic

  • Irritability and restlessness

  • Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed (including sex)

  • Feeling low

  • Thoughts of suicide

Physical symptoms

  • Lack of energy. Moving and speaking slower than usual

  • Insomnia or oversleeping

  • Changes in appetite, lack of appetite or overeating

  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems

  • Feeling overly tired

The majority of the above symptoms will affect their ability to do the things they normally do, so it is important to seek support if you think your partner may have depression. Men and women may display different symptoms of depression. Men, in particular, generally tend to find it harder to speak out and seek help due to the stigma of having a mental health condition. They may be worried about being seen as 'weak'. It is important to remind them that depression is a recognised medical condition as real as the flu or breaking a leg. The sooner we can help them, the easier it will be. It is so important to be aware of this and make sure the men in your life feel comfortable in speaking to you without feeling judged.

You may think there is only one type of depression, however that is not true. Understanding the different types of depression can allow you to recognise the symptoms in a loved one or even yourself.

The different types of depression include

  • Mild depression (has some impact on daily life)
  • Moderate depression (has a significant impact on daily life)
  • Severe depression (makes it almost impossible to cope on a daily basis)
  • Postnatal depression (depression developed after having a baby)
  • Seasonal affective disorder (seasonal depression, typically linked with Winter)
  • Bipolar disorder (Similar depression symptoms however with episodes of excessively high mood called 'mania')

The causes of depression

Those who have depression are likely to blame themselves for it. It is important to remember that it is not your fault or theirs that this happened. The causes of depression are many and can be very different from one person to the next. In some cases it can linked with low self-esteem, chronic pain, having an anxiety disorder, having relatives with depression, some medications, childhood abuse, abuse as an adult, chronic diseases, stresses at work, and life events (losing a loved one), or using drugs or alcohol excessively among many others. Depression can be triggered due to stress at work, in a relationship, with family, money worries, etc. Depression can be severe, but it is important to know that it is a treatable mental health condition, support is available. However, will not always go away by itself, and even if it eventually does it might take a very long time without treatment. It is important to seek professional support as soon as possible.

How can I help?

Encourage them to seek support if they haven’t yet done so. Many people with depression do not seek support due to many reasons, such as being in denial, worrying about being judged or simply lacking confidence to ask for help. Do not force anything, as this could make your loved one even more insecure. Think about how you would talk about going to the doctor to check out a really bad cold and use a similar approach. Have a non-judgemental, genuine conversation about why and how you want to help them.

Communication plays a huge part when supporting a loved one through depression. Talk to them about how they are feeling if they wish to discuss anything, but do not force them to talk. Depression is a sensitive subject and lots of people do not feel comfortable opening up straight away.

Encourage your partner to open up. Since communication does play a key part in understanding how your partner is feeling, it is a good idea to encourage them to talk about what is going on. This may take time. Offer words of encouragement such as 'I love you and I am here for you' or 'I know it cannot be easy so I apprecitate the effort you are making.'

Research ways you can help. No amount of research you do will allow you to fully understand how somebody with depression feels, but it will certainly help. Researching depression, reading some personal stories (from partners of individuals with depression), and looking into support services should give you an idea on how you can begin to help the person you love.

Remember, it is nothing personal. Some people with depression prefer to be left alone when they are going through an unusually bad day. This is not because they don’t love you or that you do not make them happy; it is just the way in which they prefer to cope. It is their battle and whichever way they feel most comfortable overcoming it, let them do it. That in itself is showing support. Those with depression may also respond in an angry tone, be resentful or feel guilty towards their spouses. Do not let this bring you down, it is the condition that is causing your partner to behave this way. Always bear that in mind.

Be there, but do not isolate yourself. Many people with depressive disorders prefer to have a small circle of friends or isolate themselves from others. Because of this they will not be as social as you may like. It is okay to spend nights in together if that is what you prefer. However, do not become isolated from your friends/family. Ensure you get out and socialise to maintain a healthy mind yourself.

You will NOT ‘cure’ your partner of their depression. A lot of the time, some partners go into a relationship assuming they can instantly cure their partner of their mental health disorder. Just as you cannot ‘cure’ someone with diabetes, just by making them happy; it is also not possible to cure your partner of depression by loving them (although it does help, just like it does with diabetes).

Depression is not something that should be considered a burden within a relationship. However understanding mental health conditions is not something that comes naturally to most people so it will require more patience and effort than understanding a broken leg. Life with depression is not easy and recovery can be a long, hard road. Never judge your partner and how they cope with their depression. If you have not been there, you cannot comprehend the intensity of the experience. All you can do is be there. Things will get better.

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"I'm so depressed."

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"I'm so depressed."

Depression is not just being sad. Depression is not being able to find pleasure or happiness in doing the things you once loved. Depression is the inability to get of bed because you are too tired (even though you’ve just slept for 10 hours). Depression is not being able to muster the motivation to make a simple meal, but it is also overeating until you are on the verge of throwing up. Depression is headaches, cramps, and emptiness. Depression can be fatal.

So, before updating your social media status’ claiming that you are ‘so depressed’ because you can’t quite afford to go out this weekend, your friends cancelled plans last minute or because your favourite shirt shrunk in the wash—THINK. Depression is different from a bad mood. A bad mood can last a while and at, the time, it may feel like you are depressed, but this feeling will go. If it is just a bad mood, you will wake up the next morning and get on with your day. If it’s depression, you may not be too happy about the fact you even woke up at all.

According to Mentalhealth.org, almost 6,200 suicides were recorded in the UK alone (2013). Within the space of ten years (2003 - 2013), over 18,000 people committed suicide in the UK. To put that into perspective, that is the equivalent of every single student in an average sized University (such as City University of London), or every student across 15 secondary schools, taking their own life.

Looking out for the signs of depression in adults:

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions

  • Fatigue and decreased energy

  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness

  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism

  • Insomnia, waking too early in the morning, or excessive sleeping

  • Irritability, restlessness

  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex

  • Overeating or appetite loss

  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings

  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

Looking out for the signs of depression in adolescents:

  • Depressed or irritable mood

  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating

  • Change in grades, getting into trouble at school, or refusing to go to school

  • Change in eating habits

  • Feeling angry, restless or irritable

  • Mood swings

  • Feeling worthless

  • Frequent sadness or crying

  • Withdrawing from friends and activities

  • Loss of energy

  • Low self-esteem

  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide

A bad mood is a symptom of depression. When someone experiences a negative mood they will likely feel angry, irritable and down about a certain situation. However, being in a bad mood does not mean you are depressed. According to webmd, you need to have experienced at least 5 of the above stated symptoms for longer than 2 weeks to be diagnosed with depression. Remember you cannot diagnose it yourself as there are other conditions that may have similar symptoms, if you or someone you love is having the symptoms described above the best thing is to book an appointment with your doctor,

Depression is a serious health condition, but with people claiming to be depressed when in reality they are just slightly irritated because something did not go their way, it is making it harder for those with clinical depression to speak out. We need to understand and listen, but the fear that somebody may turn around and say 'I was depressed last night too', when they simply lost their phone charger or didn't have the money to go out, is what can make it hard. Depression is often romanticised across some social media platforms, and it can be seen to be something to label yourself as because you want to seem as if you have a 'cool edge'. The word ‘depression’ is flung around as if it is a normal emotion but in reality, depression takes lives. It needs to be understood in the same way a physical health problem is.

(http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/detecting-depression#1)

(https://www.adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/children/anxiety-and-depression)

 

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Tech for employees - How it will save your company thousands!

It is no surprise that employee mental health is something that is being taken extremely seriously by a lot of organisations. We've all seen the cost estimates, the figures from the HSE and the Mental Health foundation, and just how much the UK economy, and business in general, suffer due to undiagnosed and untreated mental health conditions. Ultimately, the less support we provide, the more it will negatively impact productivity at work, absenteeism, progress, and the success of a company.

Mental ill health is unfortunately very common in employees with recent studies estimating that 20% of the working population will experience a mental health condition in 2017. Check out our infographic about the cost to businesses this causes.

Yet, with days off due to mental health issues increasing by 24% over the past six years, it is so important to ensure every member of staff feels looked after. A career is so important in life. It gives the ability to build the skills to progress further and it is the foundation of building a life, not just for employees but for their families. As such, it can put employees under a lot of pressure. 9 out of 10 employees with a mental health issue experience stigma and discrimination - with 56% of managers saying they would not hire somebody due to mental health problems regardless of them being the best candidate for the job. Everybody knows that mental health within the workplace needs to be addressed - but how can we do it in an effective way that positively reduces stigma and allows for better support seeking routes for employees?

With workplace stress statistics not improving over almost a decade and with the majority of people refusing to seek treatment, individuals have recently begun to explore alternative options. Some people have resulted in turning to technology to feel the benefits of improved mental health. When we all spend so much time on our phones and tablets by wasting time on things like Facebook and Twitter, why don't we use it more productively? Mobile mental health has allowed the public, doctors and even researchers new ways to assist their (patients) mental health. This includes monitoring progress, access to helplines, stress relieving applications and further understanding of mental wellbeing through websites and social media. There are a variety apps which have been suggested to improve mental health. These range from mindfulness apps, quote apps, support forums and apps allowing you to contact a professional.

Should employees turn to their mobile phones for support? We think so. Here are some of the benefits.

  • Convenience: Many people tend to have their mobile phones with them constantly and therefore if someone was feeling stressed or down, they could access support immediately. 

  • 24/7: Community mental health teams and GP surgeries operate from 9am to 5pm, but we all know mental health conditions do not simply stop at 5pm. You would also need to book appointments, and can usually find yourself on a waiting list of longer than 3 months for clinical support. However, if you are feeling particularly stressed or anxious in the evening, during the night or at the weekend, you can access help and support instantly, any time of the day.

  • Anonymous: Within an app, your identity can remain anonymous, and there is no need to fill out forms or speak to somebody about your problems face to face. Of course, we recommend face to face therapy and do not see technology replacing that human interaction, but 'speaking out' is often the biggest barrier stopping people from an early intervention. If someone can use an app, when they may feel scared of talking, they can get help immediately without the need to feel anxious.

  • Available to more people: There are numerous reasons why some people may not seek help from professionals including price, availability, those living in rural areas and more. Apps are available for everybody to use, no matter their location, income, and severity etc.  

  • Affordable: Traditionally, visiting a therapist costs between £40-£100 per session (imagine the cost of one session per week), however apps cost a lot less. Even if there is a subscription involved, it will generally be less than the price of a monthly prescription. Something that works won’t usually be free.

As previously stated, there are numerous benefits to using technology to improve your mental well-being, however, there are also a few cons. These include:

  • Effectiveness: Though some apps state they ‘really do work’, the effectiveness of them is not necessarily proven. If you are going to try an app, at least ensure the techniques within the app are clinically proven to reduce your symptoms. If the app itself has completed seperate clinical research trials with UK based NHS teaching trusts, even better.

  • Privacy: Apps monitoring mental health usually contain sensitive and personal information. Ensure any mental health apps you download protect your privacy.

To begin ensuring the wellbeing of employees, why not explore our clinically proven app, ‘Feel Stress Free’, which has been developed by our founding psychologists and psychiatrists and includes computerised cognitive behavioural therapy and simple mindfulness techniques. It can pro-actively prevent, provide early detection, and provide early treatment for common mental health conditions, as well as building resilience to and help prevent stress, anxiety and mild depression with regular use. You can download feel stress free at www.feelstressfree.com.






 

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Why is workplace mental health still soaring?

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Why is workplace mental health still soaring?

£105.2 billion is spent each year in the UK due to ill mental health, whilst up to 83% of Americans find themselves stressed in the workplace. Efforts are being made to ensure employee mental well-being improves, however nothing seems to be working and mental health statistics seem to have stayed broadly flat for a decade (even with certain measures being taken to decrease this). So why is employee mental health not improving? Why are US suicide rates in the workplace soaring? Why are UK employers having to spend up to £2.4 billion to replace lost staff due to poor mental health whilst 70 million workdays are lost due to mental health problems?

Over the years, numerous actions have been taken in an attempt to decrease the shockingly high number of employees who feel stressed. In the UK, working days lost due to stress has increased by 24% in 6 years. Whilst stress tends to be experienced more within industries regarding public services (teaching, police work, health care workers etc), it can be seen across almost every job role and sector. The rate of depressive disorders among healthcare workers compared with the general population is alarming, however the problem is not purely within the UK, with 400 physicians in the US committing suicide due to workplace stress/depression per year. That is over one physician ending their life every single day of the year because of the job they are doing and the lack of treatment they are receiving.

What exactly is being done about this?

Whilst 1 in 5 people take a day off and a quarter of people contemplate resigning due to stress, it’s relatively hard to find evidence that what employers are doing for their employees regarding mental health is working. There are numerous different factors which contribute to workplace stress and burnout (exhaustion and lack of motivation) which includes but is not limited to - Lack of control over work, heavy workload, tight deadlines, no challenges, too low of a workload, lack of clear priorities, low pay, poor working conditions and undervalued social position.

Employers should be fully aware that they will be employing people who will struggle with a mental health problem, yet with just under half of employees feeling as if they cannot speak to their line manager, it is difficult to provide a solution. New idea’s that have been introduced include ‘the walking mile’ which consists of having meetings whilst walking (both the fresh air and the movement is beneficial to mental wellbeing), promotion of healthy eating and physical wellness including a discount on gym memberships, group resilience sessions, and many more. But what clinical evidence is there to show a benefit? Anyone can write a case study, anyone can write a testimonial - It's the evidence and research we're keen to see.

Some employers are not made aware of how to spot the signs of employee stress and burnout, thus not being able to provide a solution. The signs every line manager should be looking out for are an increase in unexplained absences or sick leave, poor performance, poor timekeeping, increased consumption of alcohol, tobacco or caffeine, frequent headaches or backaches, withdrawal from social contact, poor judgement/indecisiveness, constant tiredness or low energy and unusual displays of emotion e.g. frequent irritability, or tearfulness. By spotting signs early, you can help in a more effective way.

In 2010/2011 the HSE calculated the cost of work-related stress/psychological absences to be around £3.6billion to the UK economy. Given the figures have all risen since 2011, we can only assume the cost to be greater in 2017. Let’s put that in real terms. On average, employee absence from work due to stress, anxiety or depression lasts 23.9 days. Rounding this down to 4 working weeks, and at an average salary of £27,600pa, the cost to the organisation is a minimum of £2,300 per employee, per absence. To see more about cost to your business, see the infographic here.

There are a variety of different factors which can cause stress and poor mental health ranging from heavy workloads, tight deadlines, little time for breaks and also other environmental influences such as the media, other colleagues and role models. With a lot of people constantly feeling as if they need to keep up to date with the latest trends or have the most luxurious car, phone or bag - it is often difficult to avoid comparing yourself. Comparing yourself to others at work or to those across social media will decrease productivity as the mind is elsewhere. 

Until organisations can find tools that provide accurate, actionable data showing a return on investment, we won't know what is working and what isn't. Feel Stress Free provides that information, and we've seen the impact it can have with our partners who support it. Over the next 5 years our mission is to see these statistics in the workplace dramatically reduce, and we've already shown a big, measurable improvement with the partners we work with.

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