Everyone has days when they’re a bit down but depression is a far more serious issue which will affect one in five women and one in eight men at some stage of their lives.
Depression is a serious illness that affects our physical and mental health. It is more than a low mood and according to beyondblue, a person may be depressed if, for more than two weeks, they have felt sad, down or miserable most of the time or have lost interest or pleasure in usual activities – to name but a few symptoms.
While we don’t know exactly what causes depression, a number of factors can be traced to its development. Depression usually results from a combination of recent events and other longer-term or personal factors, rather than one immediate issue or event.
Issues such as being unemployed for a long time, living in an abusive or uncaring relationship, being in a situation where you experience long-term isolation or loneliness, and prolonged exposure to stress at work are seen as being more likely to cause depression than recent life stresses.
However, recent events like losing your job, or a combination of events can ‘trigger’ depression if a person is already at risk. But it also is important to realise that many people experience depression without an obvious cause.
Research shows depression can run in families and some people will be at an increased genetic risk but this does not mean that if you have a parent or close relative with depression that you will also suffer from it.
Another factor is that some people are more at risk of suffering from depression because of the nature of their personality – particularly those who worry a lot, have low self-esteem, are perfectionists, are sensitive to personal criticism, or are self-critical and negative.
Being sick can also be a trigger and the stress and worry of dealing with a serious illness can lead to depression, especially if you are dealing with long-term management and/or chronic pain.
Drug and alcohol use can both lead to and result from depression. Many people with depression have drug and alcohol problems and more than half a million Australians will experience depression and a substance use disorder at the same time.
If you think you may be suffering from depression it is important to get help from a health professional such as your community pharmacist. Speak to your community pharmacist if you have any concerns or questions about depression. Many community pharmacists have undertaken additional training in mental health and so are well placed to provide initial advice and referral to other health professionals where appropriate.
There is no one proven way that people recover from depression, and it’s different for everybody. However, there are a range of effective treatments and your community pharmacist and other health professionals may be able to help on the road to recovery.