Depression is very common and everyone feels fed up, sad, unhappy, miserable at times. Sometimes we know that there is a cause for our depression - maybe we have just broken up from a relationship, maybe someone we were close to has died, we may have failed exams, we may be ill - but other times there doesn't seem to be one cause - it may be a build up of problems, feeling unable to cope with life and we are not really sure why.

When depression is very severe some people can feel that life isn't worth living, they want to die. When depression doesn't go away it is important to ask for help. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help but a sign of strength to recognise that you have these feelings and are unable to cope. Many people find at some stage in their life that it is hard to cope as well as they used to. You don't have to be strong all the time - recognise when you are finding it difficult to cope and need support.

People can get a variety of symptoms when they feel very depressed.

  • General feelings of unhappiness which don't go away.

  • Having no interest in life.

  • Finding it difficult to concentrate and make even easy decisions.

  • Having no feeling of enjoyment in life.

  • Not wanting to go out or mix with people but spending a lot of time on your own.

  • Feeling very tired and having no energy.

  • Finding it difficult to sleep and waking up frequently during the night.

  • Having no appetite and eating very little

  • Losing self confidence and feeling worthless.

  • Being very irritable, anxious, impatient.

  • Feeling very negative about life.

  • Having suicidal thoughts.

If you are depressed don't bottle it up - it is important you talk to someone - family, friend, teacher, youth leader, GP, organisation, helpline etc. - anyone you feel you can trust If you don't share how you are feeling you may find yourself using unhealthy coping strategies which will in the long run only add to your problems and make you feel worse - some people may start drinking alcohol more, may take drugs, may start self harming and cutting themselves, may stop eating or binge eating and making themselves sick.

You may find that counselling will help you as this will give you a safe space to talk to someone who is especially trained. This will help you to say how you really feel inside and the counsellor will work with you to help you find solutions and healthy coping strategies and to look at the reasons behind your depression. This will give you a better understanding of your feelings and some support in working through anything which is troubling you. If you find that counselling doesn't work for you then it would be an idea to see your GP and discuss with him other ways of helping you with your depression.

Talking to others and counselling and therapy can help but to pull yourself out of a depression you need to do a lot of work yourself. When you are depressed you may feel you have no control over your life but you do still have choices. You can choose to stay depressed and not eat properly, not exercise, stay in bed all day, etc. or you can choose to try and help yourself to get out of the depression . If you take care of yourself physically it will help you to feel stronger emotionally and to cope more easily with life. Just as a car needs petrol to work properly so does your body need nutrients from food so although you may not feel like eating please try and eat healthily and drink plenty of water.

Sometimes when we are depressed life can seem very negative and black - it can be easy to forget that there are beautiful things in the world surrounding us. Try and get out each day into an open space, park, forest, lake etc. and just take in the beauty of your surroundings, and try and be at one with nature. This can help keep things in perspective and lift your mood.

Set yourself small goals - maybe each day try and write down something you want to do the following day and try and follow this through. The more active you are the less time you will have to focus on your depression. Try and interact with other people when you can as if you totally isolate yourself and cut yourself off from the outside world you could find your depression gets more severe.

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What Can I do To Help Myself

  • Don't bottle things up - find someone to talk to about how you are feeling.
  • Make sure you get plenty of exercise and plenty of fresh air. You will find that even if you do a quick walk every day and a short period of other exercise each day you will start to feel physically and emotionally stronger and more able to cope.
  • Make sure you eat a healthy balanced diet - eat little and often and don't skip meals. If you are not eating properly you will feel more depressed and listless.
  • Try and keep busy - to keep your mind occupied.
  • Do things you enjoy to relax, treat yourself and take care of yourself.
  • Try and get to bed at a regular time. If you find it difficult to sleep listen to the radio/TV/read and you may find you drop off to sleep more easily.
  • Don't resort to unhealthy ways of dealing with your problems like drinking, taking drugs, cutting, eating disorders.
  • Ask for help when you need it.
  • Try to stop thinking in a negative way - when you think a negative thought try and replace it with a positive one.
  • If you need a hug ask someone you trust - this can make you feel that someone really does care how you are feeling.

Remember depression is very common - you will not always feel like this - you will come out of it and be able to enjoy life.

If your depression is severe and you are having thoughts about harming yourself or ending your life it is important you talk to someone immediately about how you are feeling. If you are a child or young person speak to your parents about how you are feeling. They would want to know how you feel and to support you and look at ways of helping. Talk to your GP and make him aware of what is going on for you. It is very difficult to deal with severe depression on your own - you need help and support and in some cases your GP may advise medication.


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Agencies which offer support and information

  • SupportLine Telephone Helpline: 01708 765200 (Helpline)
    email info@supportline.org.uk
    Confidential emotional support to Children Young People and Adults. Also keeps details of agencies, support groups and counsellors throughout UK.

  • Action on Depression (Scotland):
    Telephone information and other support for people affected by depression. Information about symptoms and treatment, listening support and signposting to other agencies.

  • Association for Post Natal Illness: 020 7386 0868
    To advise and support women suffering from post natal illness. Running a network of volunteers to support sufferers throughout the UK.

  • Aware Defeat Depression: 08451 202961 (area served N.Ireland)
    Support, information or a listening ear for all those affected by depressive illnesses.

  • Bipolar UK:
    020 7931 6480
    Advice and information for people with manic depression and their families, carers and mental health professionals. Supply a range of information leaflets, books and tapes. Network of self help groups for people with manic depression, relatives and friends. Self management training programme.

  • Breathing Space: 0800 83 85 87 (Area served SCOTLAND)
    Breathing Space is a free, confidential phone line for people in Scotland who are experiencing low mood or depression. Breathing Space is available to the public every day of the year, 24 hours at weekends (6pm Friday–6am Monday) and 6pm-2am (Monday-Thursday).

  • CALL Community Advice and Listening Line (Wales): 0800 132737
    Mental health helpline for Wales providing confidential listening support service.  

  • Calmzone:
    National 0800 585858
    Campaign Against Living Miserably. Help and support for young men aged 15-35 on issues which include depression and suicide.

  • Childline: 0800 1111

  • Directory and Book Services:
    07854 653118

    Wide range of books including those on depression, self esteem assertiveness, self harm, child abuse.

  • Depression Alliance:
    Also offer a range of information on depression and treatment options. National network of self help groups for people experiencing depression. National pen friend scheme offering support and fellowship to people with depression and their carers. Quarterly newsletter, booklets and leaflets on depression.

  • Depression UK:
    Self Help Nottingham, Ormiston House, 32-36 Pelham Street, Nottingham NG1 2EG UK
    email info@depressionuk.org
    Wide self help organisation made up of individual members and groups which meet locally on a regular basis for mutual support. £10 yearly membership (reductions for those who cannot afford that amount).

  • Get Connected: 0808 808 4994
    Free telephone and email helpline finding young people the best help whatever the problem. Can connect a child or young person to any UK helpline where appropriate.

  • Health in Mind (Scotland)
    0131 225 8508

    Promotes positive mental health and well being in Scotland. Provides a wide range of services including support, respite, befriending, day services, counselling/talking therapies, face to face and on telephone.

  • Lifeline (N.Ireland)
    0808 808 8000
    For anyone in N.Ireland who is in distress or despair. Immediate help on phone 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Face to face counselling can be arranged, also befriending, mentoring. Issues dealt with include suicide prevention, self harm, abuse, trauma, depression, anxiety.
    Run by Contact N.Ireland www.contactni.com independent counselling service employing professional qualified counselors who have extensive experience of working with people facing a wide range of problems, free to all users.

  • The Maytree: 020 7263 7070
    Sanctuary for the suicidal offering befriending and support (based in N.London).

  • The Mental Health Foundation:

    Publish a booklet 'Understanding Depression'.

  • Mind (National Association for Mental Health): 0300 123 3393
    Publish booklets relating to Depression.

  • Mood Swings:
    Helpline: 0161 832 3736

    National Helpline and online support providing free and confidential information, advice and support to people with mood disorders, family, friends and health and social care professionals. Also one to one, support groups, workshops at Centre in Manchester.

  • Muslim Youth Helpline:
    0808 808 2008
    (Area served London)
    Helpline providing culturally sensitive support to Muslim youth under the age of 25. Outreach services including family mediation, face to face counselling and befriending.

  • National Youth Advocacy Service:
    0808 808 1001
    Provides information, advice, advocacy and legal representation to young people up to the age of 25 through a network of advocates throughout England and Wales.

  • SAD Association:
    To inform the public about seasonal affective disorder. To support and advise sufferers of the illness. Limited light box hire scheme. Supply contacts list for members.

  • Samaritans:0845 790 90 90
    email jo@samaritans.org

  • Coram Voice:
    0808 800 5792

    Telephone advice, information and advocacy services for children in care. Helpline for care leavers - 0808 100 3224. Visiting advocacy service for children in secure units and other residential homes.

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Useful websites

  • www.bigwhitewall.com
    Improving mental health and emotional well being.

  • www.cwmt.orgthe Charlie Waller Memorial Trust - Awareness of the signs of depression, information and resources

  • www.depressionalliance.org

  • www.depressioninteenagers.co.uk – An interactive site with resources for young people with depression, using self help ideas and relaxation techniques

  • www.nightline.ac.uk
    Trained student volunteers provide emotional support to students. Operating in the night when many other university services are closed.

  • www.menheal.org.uk
    A website for all men who suffer from depression or anxiety from all round the world. Support group for men with mental health issues in Abergavenny Monmouthshire, Wales. The organisation is also interested in creating dialog with women who know a man who has suffered or currently suffers from a mental health issue.

  • www.mind.org.uk/foodandmood - A site which explores the relationship of what you eat and how you feel

  • www.healthyplace.com - Information and support for those suffering from depression (American site)

  • www.mindingyourhead.info
    Information relating to mental health, depression, stress and anxiety

  • www.moodgym.anu.edu.au – Online training programme using cognitive behavioural therapy for preventing depression

  • www.netdoctor.co.uk - Lots of useful information

  • www.olagola.com
    Day to day support service and crisis support to help reduce suicide, depression and other stress related illnesses to service users who are in need of emotional support and encouragement. Instant online support for any person who may be experiencing something in their life which they may be finding difficult to cope with. Also peer to peer support facilitated and monitored through facebook by trained admins where service users support each other through discussion, topics and open forums  https://www.facebook.com/olagola

  • www.overcomedepression.co.uk - Depression help and advice  

  • www.patient.co.uk - Self help guides under mental health leaflets on depression

  • www.pendulum.org (American site) - Online support group for people with manic depression (bipolar disorder)

  • www.pni.org.uk - Website set up by women who are suffering or have suffered with post natal illness, information, email support partner, chatroom

  • www.studentdepression.org - Site contains excellent information and help for anyone feeling depressed

  • www.surgerydoor.co.uk - Click on 'medical conditions', click on 'mental health', then 'depression' for information

  • www.theblackdog.net - Supportive site for men who suffer from depression and/or suicidal thoughts

Useful book

Overcoming Depression by Paul Gilbert - Publishers Constable & Robinson: ISBN 1841191256
Click here to read more or buy this book

Caring for someone with depression

It can be very difficult watching a loved one going through depression, seeing someone you care about suffering and often feeling helpless as to how to offer support. It may well bring up many different emotions in yourself such as frustration, anger, sadness.

Find out as much as you can about depression for yourself, which will give you a greater understanding of what your loved one is going through, which in turn will help you to support them. A depressed person can't simply just snap out of it, often it can be a slow process taking one step at a time working towards recovery. As part of their recovery they may from time to time have relapses, if they do don't get down about it as some people do have them before they make a full recovery.

A depressed person will often feel very alone and isolated with their feelings and may even feel ashamed of speaking about their depression. It is important for them to know that many of us at some time in our lives struggle with life and need support from others. It is a sign of strength, not weakness to reach out to others for help.  Sometimes they might need to be alone as life is getting too much for them at that time of their recovery. If they do want some time out give them that time but try and not let them take too much time away on their own and withdraw from people if possible.

Never underestimate the importance of letting the person know you care what they are going through, you are there for them if they want to talk about anything.

Sometimes when a person is depressed they lack the enthusiasm and motivation to do anything and searching for information therefore can feel difficult to do. They may also feel that there is no help out there and that the way they feel now will be the way they will always feel, which can often lead to feelings of despair. Give them time to recover.

You can help by looking for information for them such as helplines, counselling services and information about depression and give it to them to read in their own time if they choose to. If someone is severely depressed try not to overwhelm them with too much information at once. It may be helpful to offer to go through the information with them.

Encourage the person to seek help. You can offer to go with them and give them support if they choose to go to a GP or counsellor as it may seem very daunting for them to go on their own especially if their mind is ill.  However, in your concern for them to get help try to avoid putting pressure on them by telling them too often what to do.

Exercise is beneficial to anyone who is depressed, try and encourage this, ask if they would like to go out for walks with you. If they are severely depressed it may not be wise for them to go out on their own as their mind may not be functioning enough to pick up the dangers they would need to avoid to keep themselves safe.

Ask them in what ways you can support them. Sometimes asking that question may get a reply from the person you are trying to support that you personally don't agree would help them but sometimes people know themselves best and what may be right for them at that particular time.

It is important to remember it is not your responsibility to sort out their depression and you are not responsible for their happiness. Each individual has to take responsibility for their own lives, choices, decisions, happiness and fulfilment in life. Sometimes people are not ready or able to face up to their illness and not ready to get help.  Sometimes sadly people will get worse before they are ready to get help for themselves. In these situations all you can do is be there to support them in whatever way you can. You cannot force another person to get help.

It is important not to allow the situation to take over your own life. Caring for someone with depression can often become all consuming to the extent that people neglect themselves and often become ill with stress because of the situation.  It is important to have time for yourself, for your family, friends, leisure activities, relaxation and to have support for yourself perhaps from a friend or a local Carers Group otherwise you may feel you are becoming overwhelmed and drained by the situation.

You may have to set boundaries, you can be there to listen to them but that does not mean to the extent of everything else in your life. You are not responsible for fixing their depression, they are, and they are responsible for getting the help they need.  You can support them with this and give encouragement and help where you can.

Some organisations who provide support for people with depression may also provide support for those caring for them. If you are caring for someone with severe depression it may help to seek support for yourself from a local Carers support group. (see sections on Carers, Depression and Mental Health)

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