Looking After Your Mental Health At Christmas

According to the latest estimates from WHO, depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability, affecting more than 300 million people worldwide and 450,000 people in Ireland alone. To put that into context, that’s 1 in 10 people.

What is depression:
Depression is a mental health condition which can affect thinking, energy, feelings and behaviour. It can vary from mild to severe and can have a profound impact, affecting every aspect of the individual, including their relationships, family, work and school life.

It is possible to minimise the impact of depression by accessing information and support, and finding ways to manage the condition. We know that early intervention ensures more positive outcomes when it comes to mental health issues. Everybody has periods in their lives which are challenging and some people can cope better than others during these times. The most important thing is to be able to seek help when you need it and to know where to seek it.

How does it affect me?
At Aware, we use the acronym FESTIVAL to describe the 8 main symptoms of depression:
• Feeling – sad, anxious, guilty
• Energy – low energy, tired or fatigued
• Sleep – under or over sleeping, any change to normal sleep pattern
• Thinking – poor concentration, thoughts slowed down
• Interest – loss of interest in hobbies, family or social life
• Value – low self esteem
• Aches – physical aches and pains with no physical basis
• Life – loss of interest in living, thinking about death, suicidal thoughts

If you notice five or more symptoms lasting for a period of two weeks or more, Aware recommends that you speak to your GP or a mental health professional. This will help you to get a correct diagnosis and decide which approach to treatment is best for you.

Learning to cope with depression:
There are a number of treatment options available – lifestyle changes, talk therapies, medication or a combination of these.

• Exercise can be very beneficial. Exercise releases endorphins in your body which are known to improve your mood.
• As sleep is often impacted when mood is low, it is helpful to consider what aids your sleep. Try not to drink tea and coffee late at night as they are stimulants. Consider leaving your electronic devices out of your bedroom. It is helpful to prepare for sleep.
• Try to eat a balanced and nutritious diet. A healthy diet produces a healthy body and a healthy mind.
• Alcohol is a depressant and can be a potent trigger to low mood, especially in individuals prone to depression. It can also interact dangerously with some medication
• You might also find it useful to write down three things you achieved at the end of each day. This can contribute towards building your self-esteem.
• Try to focus on what is going well in your life. Even on a bad day, there are good moments in it, no matter how small they may seem. Consider keeping a gratitude diary and noting three good things that happen each day.

Above all, do not try to deal with depression on your own.

Reach out to family and friends, and use the help and support that is available to you. Keep support line numbers close to hand and consider attending a support group. Talking to someone who understands can bring reassurance and enable you to learn new coping skills.

Aware is the national mental health organisation providing support, education and information around depression, bipolar disorder and other mood related conditions.

Services include:
Aware offers three core support services: Support & Self Care Groups, Support Line and Support Mail.
Support & Self Care Groups offer individuals the opportunity to talk openly about depression, bipolar disorder, mood related conditions and their impact. There are 37 groups located nationwide, in addition to a number of specialised groups to include Young Adults Support & Self Care Groups and a Perinatal Support Group. The Aware Support Line operates 7 days a week from 10am – 10pm. Freephone 1800 80 48 48. Aware Support Mail provides support and information supportmail@aware.ie with all emails answered within a 24hr period.

Aware aims to educate and empower people to look after their mental health through adult, workplace and school based education programmes. The Life Skills programme is a free 6-week programme based on principles of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and is available to adults in a group setting or online. Aware offers a number of free school based education programmes to include Life Skills for Schools and Beat the Blues, a 70-minute talk for senior cycle secondary school students. Aware has recently introduced a free Relatives & Friends programme and also offers Wellness @Work, a mental health education and training programme for employees and managers.

Aware provides information on depression and bipolar disorder for individuals who are experiencing the mood related disorder, those who are concerned for a family member or friend and people who are seeking to learn more about the conditions.

Extensive information on depression, bi-polar disorder, Aware services, self-help tips and the monthly Aware Public Lecture Series are available at www.aware.ie.