Following the views about depression expressed by our columnist Clive Smith earlier this week, the Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust’s Dr Ray Vieweg gives his perspective as a consultant psychiatrist
EVERYONE has ups and downs – you might feel low or, if you lose a loved one, you will experience grief.
It’s common for people to say that they are ‘depressed’ when they are feeling down.
They can have the symptom of feeling depressed but this doesn’t mean that they have the illness of depression.
Clinical depression is a long-lasting low mood that affects a person’s ability to do everyday things, to feel pleasure, or to take interest in activities.
Nobody knows exactly what causes depression but there are a number of factors which can increase the risk.
If you have depression, some of the chemicals in your brain are out of balance.
In particular, having lower amounts of a chemical called ‘serotonin’ in your brain may cause depression.
Changes in hormones can also affect your mood, which can be particularly noticeable for women.
Depression can sometimes run in families and your background, such as problems in childhood, can also increase your risk of depression, as can ‘trigger events’ later in life.
Good food, exercise and hobbies can make it less likely that you will become unwell, whereas using drugs or alcohol might make it more likely.
Having other illnesses – particularly long-term or life-threatening physical conditions – can increase the chances of depression and those people with brain injuries and dementia will often experience changes in their moods.
Common signs of depression include feeling low, feeling bad about yourself and not wanting to do things.
Often people describe a loss of concentration and they can become tired easily and start eating and sleeping less.
In more severe cases, people may experience thoughts of self-harm or suicide and be unable to eat or drink at all. We would urge anyone experiencing any of these symptoms to seek professional help.
Feelings of low mood, or as some may say, feeling depressed is a personal experience that is different for everyone.
There is a spectrum of such feelings which can range from a fleeting and mild experience to an overwhelming and sometimes life threatening experience.
Crucially, depression is a very real illness – which can affect anyone, male or female and at any age.
It’s not something that you can simply ‘snap out of’ and is different to the milder forms of feeling low or depressed.
But if people are willing to talk to someone and seek help, it is treatable and not something which lasts forever.
Depression affects about one in 10 of us during our lifetimes and it’s really important not to suffer alone.
There is a range of support available, and a first step would be to discuss how you feel with your family and friends or to arrange an appointment with your GP to discuss options such as counselling or medication.
Where to get help
THERE is support out there for anyone who needs help and information about mental health.
Here are the names and contact details of services:
Talking Change – for people living in Portsmouth.
Visit solent.nhs.uk/talkingchange or call (023) 9289 2928.
iTalk – for people living in Hampshire.
Visit italk.org.uk or call (023) 8038 3920.
Portsmouth Mind – a charity to help those living in Portsmouth.
Visit portsmouthmind.org.uk or call (023) 9229 1660.
Solent Mind – a charity to help those living in Hampshire and Portsmouth.
Visit solentmind.org.uk or call (023) 8202 7810.
Off The Record – support for people aged 11 to 25 in the Portsmouth area.
Visit off-the-record.org.uk, call (023) 9281 5322 or (023) 9247 4724.
SOLENT NHS Trust
SOLENT NHS Trust provides mental health services in Portsmouth.
Operations director Matthew Hall said: ‘Mental health and wellbeing is not something we should be embarrassed or ashamed to talk about. In fact we need to talk more about it.
‘Mental health problems like depression and anxiety are very common. One in four people in the UK will experience a mental health issue every year and almost a quarter of GP consultations in the city are for a mental health problem.
‘No one is immune to mental health difficulties – a person’s mental health and wellbeing is a big part of their life, and it is something that should not be ignored. Many times people will recover from common mental health problems without professional help, but if the issue is having a big impact on your life – or is not getting better – then it is always worth getting advice; just as we would with a physical health condition.
‘There are a number of ways in which somebody can access help. The first is to talk to their GP who will often be able to advise on and manage simple mental health problems and check underlying physical health problems are not contributing.
‘The GP can also prescribe medication, if this is needed and make referrals to other specialist services which can help.
‘In Portsmouth we offer Talking Change, a service for people with mild to moderate mental health problems. It offers talking therapies, which have a strong evidence base in treating common mental health problems. This service helps people to stay in their job if they are having problems with their employer because of mental health issues. The service treats more than 4,000 people in Portsmouth every year.’
OFF The Record
OFF The Record is a charity that offers free emotional support to young people aged 11 to 25 in the Portsmouth and south-east Hampshire area.
In the last financial year, the service helped more than 4,000 young people.
It provides help via phonelines, drop-in sessions and online services on a range of issues.
This includes depression or loneliness, anxiety, stress or anger, and relationship problems.
Michelle Mckay, service delivery manager, said: ‘Our 37 years of experience of helping young people has told us that talking to someone who they can trust to hold their confidence outside their usual social circle and family can be prevent them from developing more in-depth mental health issues.
‘Talking through problems in many cases has helped them turn their lives around.
‘In the year 2014-15 just under 4,000 young people used the service.
‘Our statistics reflect that problems are being recognised at younger ages and there are avenues of help available.
‘Accessing this help may not always be straight forward.
‘Local health bodies in Portsmouth are working towards how they can make access to help easier and more effective.
‘Managing feelings of emotional stress, anxiety and loneliness can be debilitating if left to go on for a long time and prevent people getting on with their everyday lives.
‘Seeking help at an early stage can help prevent depression developing.
‘The importance of early intervention when a person is experiencing feelings of anxiety, mild depression and social isolation can avoid the development of more complex mental health illnesses.
‘This includes early stage psychosis, clinical depression, eating disorders and obsessive compulsive disorders.’
PORTSMOUTH Mind has been supporting people in Portsmouth with mental health problems for 50 years.
The charity has a phoneline and peer support sessions that people can attend.
Chairman Roger Batterbury said: ‘We want people to come forward and speak about their mental health.
‘We don’t see it as a fashionable tag as one in four people suffer from some form of mental health illness.
‘There has been a great deal of work gone on to demystify stigmas around mental health, and this should continue to be encouraged.
‘We should be able to talk openly about it, without retribution.
‘Anybody who feels they are in need of help should go to their GP.
‘Mental illness is not just a fad, and neither those who take anti-depressants.
‘There is now a range of tablets in medication to help, which shows research is going into this and there is further help.
‘I’m pleased more people are talking about their mental health – it’s extremely healthy as it’s not right to bottle things up.
‘Gone are the days when we had asylums on the outskirts of town, isolating people with mental health problems.
‘We have moved forward and people can get help in the community, through support groups, online, one the phone, and in some residential services such as St James’ Hospital.
‘There is help there – albeit there needs to be much more funding – and it’s good to be having conversations about it.’