In 2012, I took part in a radio show that looked at the Reality of Depression and how loved ones could help sufferers in times of need. We suggested in the show that depression would be the number one treated illness by 2020 and described it as the “cancer of mental health”. The introduction went like this:
It is an overwhelming fact that depression rates are on the rise in most corners of the globe. Globally, millions of people are living with the misery of the so-called “cancer of mental health” on a daily basis. Some have had their symptoms alleviated by medication, some have sought therapy and there are many others who live with it without getting help. Some are not even aware that they are suffering and some choose not to recognise it, for whatever reason. There are those who have adapted their lives to the extent that they see their depression as a “part” of them, have no trouble talking about it. There are others who feel stigmatised and discriminated against and hide their illness. There are those who live in fear of the consequences of their depression hoping it will not take over their lives. Listen to me talking about this on Blog Talk Radio. You can listen to it HERE
This morning, I read an article in the Times of London that suggested that depression has overtaken obesity and the number one illness that doctors are treating. Read more. It also suggested that, using the UK as an example, that resources available for sufferers are not keeping up with the demand for services. A depression sufferer referred by a GP to an NHS therapist faces a long wait (often many months), before the first session. Sessions are then often limited due to funding issues. While the report was based on the UK, one can imagine similar stories in other countries.
Dr Nicholas Jenner is available for online consultations. More details HERE
Let’s first look at some facts:
Around 20% of people will suffer from some form of depression during their lives.
Most people will experience depression for the first time in their twenties.
15-40% of all cases will persist for one year and of these 22% will still have depression two years later.
Each depressive episode dramatically increases the chance that another episode will be experienced.
Those whose parents were depressed are at greater risk of also being depressed.
For many sufferers, the first port of call is the local GP who is likely to use medication as a first line of attack. I know from experience that after the right dosage is found, symptoms can quickly disappear temporarily but this is not a long-term solution and sufferers are then either left to their own devices, faced with an increasing dose or pushed on to a therapist who has to justify every session to the managed care systems.
As a therapist, I recognise that the thought patterns that surface when we are low not only complicate matters but go a long way to sustaining the depression. Our minds have been trained to look for solutions and find answers to problems, trying to close the gap between where we are and where we want to be, the so-called ‘doing’ mode. When we are depressed, the mind tries frantically to find a reason why we are down. This leads to over-thinking, rumination and daydreaming leaving us on autopilot as we go through our daily activities. Worse still, old thought patterns from the past can take over leading to a lack of self-esteem, putting us firmly on the spiral of exhaustion.
Many psychologists and therapists are increasingly guiding sufferers towards a technique that has been used in Eastern religions for centuries, that is Mindfulness. Mindfulness is the art of being totally aware of the present moment. It is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them as good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience, the so-called ‘being’ mode.
Many depression sufferers are now being offered Mindfulness in association with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (MBCT) as a coping strategy when negative thought patterns take over. I have been using this technique personally for years and can vouch for its effectiveness. Dr. Zindel V. Segal, a co-developer of mindfulness teaches it to groups of patients in eight sessions. He leads them through a series of exercises that include sitting meditation, yoga-type stretching, deep breathing and walking, the American Psychological Association reports on its website. The exercises, conducted in a supportive environment, take patients’ minds off what’s bothering them and encourages them to live in the moment. They can use this technique as a coping and self-control mechanism to subdue or interrupt feelings of hopelessness and helplessness when they first emerge. Patients do homework in between sessions that reinforces what they’ve learned and should continue practicing these exercises on their own after the sessions end. Depression rates improved in patients who underwent MBCT, during, immediately after and a month after treatment, according to a 2007 article in the journal Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice. They also reported that the patients happily continued to practice the techniques they learned when the sessions ended.
A December 2, 2008 article on the Science Daily website described a 15-month study by University of Exeter researcher William Kuyker who reported that, over 15 months, the depression relapse rate was 13 percent higher among a group of people who used antidepressants than among those who underwent MBCT. “In addition, the group on the MBCT program reported a higher quality of life, in terms of their overall enjoyment of daily living and physical well-being,” the article added. Because one therapist teaches MBCT to groups of 10 to 12 patients over just eight weeks, it could become a cost-effective alternative to holding a higher number of one-on-one counselling sessions in some cases, Science Daily noted.