'I can get over my depression on my own, I don't need help!'
Given that 1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental health condition at some point in their lives, we most likely all know somebody who will experience anxiety and/or depression. We may even be that quarter of the population. When depression and anxiety hit, it can hit hard. Given this, those suffering may not feel as if they want nor need any form of intervention at all. How can one eat healthy, exercise, think positively or do anything else that is recommended for somebody with depression when they can barely find the strength to get out of bed or do simple everyday things like brush their hair or change their clothes? Not only this, anxious thoughts can result in complete denial of what is really going on. 'I’m not depressed! That would make me mentally ill. I’m fine, really.'
A study conducted in 2016 at Kings College London concluded that the vast majority of people suffering from depression don’t seek help. The study found that in the poorest countries, only one in 27 sought help for mental health whilst even in the richest countries, only 1 in 5 did. So why, even if you are in a country where support for your own mental well-being is more accessible, are just 20% of people seeking the support they need? There may be a few reasons: lack of trained mental health professionals, lack of awareness, worrying about what others might think if you start attending mental health services, and denial in the form of not believing that depression is a real illness that can affect anybody. There are so many people living with depression, assuming that this is just who they are and their depression is there for life, when, in reality, that’s not the case. Depression and anxiety are some of the most treatable conditions, but they do require attention and, some times, hard work.
When you are suffering from depression, it is so easy to just accept it as a setback in your life, hoping that when you wake up in the morning you’ll feel back to your usual self, but it doesn’t work that way. Both depression and anxiety can get worse over time. Mental health conditions can be viewed by some people as 'not real' or 'all in your head' and they carry this stigma, that something like the flu does not carry. Stigma can come from friends, family or just society as a whole. The majority of people don’t like to feel as if they are perceived as weak. By admitting they are not well, they may feel as if they are admitting that they are not as strong as the average person; they may feel as if they have something wrong with them as a person. It is curious that we don't think about other conditions in the same way. Having a broken leg says nothing about you as a person. It is unrelated to your identity. Even things that are invisible to others but very unpleasant are not viewed in the same light. For instance, if you feel very nauseous it can be very unpleasant. It may stop you from doing things and you may have to stay put for a while, yet you never think feeling nauseous is a character flaw of yours. Why is feeling anxious or depressed different?
It’s not only lack of trained psychologists, lack of awareness and stigma that may stop an individual from seeking support however. Some people worry they won’t have the time or the money to visit a therapist once a week, they may even be concerned that the medical professional will push unwanted medications onto them. This is not the case, there are a whole range of techniques you can try before medication is even an option.
According to the Anxiety and Depression association of America, If you are experiencing any of the following and have done for the past 2 weeks or longer - it is worth seeing your GP.
Persistent sad, anxious or 'empty' mood
Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities, including sex
Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling "slowed down"
Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
Low appetite and weight loss or overeating and weight gain
Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and pain for which no other cause can be diagnosed.
Though some people with depression may find it pointless to visit a doctor, there’s no harm in it. If you know somebody who is suffering from depression/anxiety who do not want to visit the doctor, listen to their reasons and be supportive however suggest that the worst that can happen is that they wasted half hour of their time to speak to the doctor, but the best that can happen is recovery.
For more on how to support a loved one through depression, click here