World Health Day, celebrated on 7th April each year to mark the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organisation (WHO), promotes a different health topic each year. This year, the theme is depression, specifically ‘Depression: Let’s Talk’.
This particular campaign gives us the opportunity to promote the importance of openness when it comes to mental health, openness not only on the victim’s part but from the general public. A better understanding of what depression is, and how it can be prevented and treated, will help reduce the stigma associated with the condition, and lead to more people seeking help.
Depression affects people differently and it affects people of all ages from all walks of life. Some may feel helpless or numb, have low self-esteem, or become more irritable or pessimistic. Others could experience physical symptoms such as a change in appetite, trouble sleeping or increased tiredness, and physical aches and pains. Even the simplest of tasks can become incredibly difficult. At worst, depression can lead to suicide, now the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year olds.
The most important thing to remember is that depression is treatable. A number of lifestyle changes have been proven to help people manage the symptoms including exercise, diet and herbal medicines.
As the title of the WHO campaign suggests, though, ‘talking’ should be the first point of call for someone suffering with low mood. Whether it be talking to a family member, a friend, or a colleague, this will undoubtedly help. The saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ exists for a reason.
Four top tips for dealing with the symptoms of depression
Exercise can have an instant uplifting effect on your mood. It floods the brain with mood-enhancing endorphins and releases the stresses and strains of the day.
Any type of exercise is useful, as long as it suits you and do enough of it. But do limit yourself to exercise that is personally enjoyable as this means you will be far more likely to develop a routine and stick to it.
Eat a balanced diet:
Eating a healthy and balanced diet is very important. Too much sugar, fat, caffeine and alcohol could leave you feeling lethargic and lower your mood. Some people don't feel like eating when they're depressed and are at risk of becoming underweight. Others find comfort in food and can put on excess weight.
For some people, alcohol can become a problem. You may drink more than usual as a way of coping with or hiding your emotions, or just to fill time. But alcohol won't help you solve your problems and could also make you feel more depressed.
Traditional herbal supplements:
Traditional herbal medicines have also had a long association in helping with the symptoms of depression. St. John’s Wart, derived from the aerial parts of the St John’s Wort herb, could lift your mood and relieve anxiety, while passion flower, which has a calming effect, could relieve panicky feelings and help you feel more in control.
Stay in touch:
It is common for people suffering with low mood to withdraw from their social life. When you next feel yourself wanting to cancel plans with a loved one, try and think back to why you made those plans in the first place.
Retaining a social network will provide you with support when you are feeling low. Just remember that, whatever you might think, there is always someone there who wants to help and is happy to listen.