Tag Archives: depression

Ten years of living with the Black Dog

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My first encounter with what I call the black dog was in the early months of 2010, not long after I went off work the previous autumn. I initially rebuffed my GP’s offer of antidepressants. That was partly because of a misplaced idea that it would be an admission of weakness to start taking drugs and a concern that being on them might adversely affect my ability to care for Daphne, who was seriously ill.

Eventually the pressures of caring and the feeling of isolation resulting from having had no contact from work colleagues led me to a point where I felt I needed medication. The first course of tablets the Doctor prescribed made me feel really ill (I can’t remember their name) so she switched me onto a different one. After a few weeks they started to help me cope better and in December of that year when my personal work situation was more or less resolved I felt well enough to stop taking them. Unfortunately I wasn’t told to taper the withdrawal, and going cold turkey was tough. That said, I managed fairly well eventually.

My next encounter with the medication came in January 2015. By then Daphne was in residential care, her condition deteriorating and my attempts to obtain some sort of part time role at my old work were going nowhere. Those were the triggers, this time it took longer for me to feel any real impact. In fact, I would say it was between 12 and 18 months. In addition on this occasion my sleep was badly disturbed and I was also given tablets to help with that. By the summer of 2017 I felt OK and again began the process of coming off the tablets this time in stages. Then my Daphne died which was hard and I started going through a bereavement process. I continued with the withdrawal.

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Mental Health Awareness Week 2018

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. The theme is this year is stress. Stress can pervade our lives, but one aspect is stress at work. Keeping a mentally-healthy workforce is best for everyone: the employees, the business and the customers.

Being self-employed as a musician, workplace stress has a slightly different connotation. I’m preparing this week for a solo piano recording on Friday. It can be highly stressful and intense, but I’ve done enough of these projects to know how to manage my stress.

And it is in managing stress that workplaces are now realising they need to put provisions in place. Stats show that mental ill-health cost UK businesses £35 billion last year. A massive sum, made up of absences for illness, lost productivity and staff turnover. And it doesn’t take into account the personal cost to each of those who suffer mental ill-health. Mental Health First Aid is being rolled out in many businesses.

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Young Lib Dem Councillor Ben Lawrie talks about his experience of Depression

I feel incredibly proud to know Scottish Liberal Democrat Councillor Ben Lawrie who has talked about his experience of Depression in this short film. It takes courage to talk so openly about something so personal. Doing so helps others immeasurably.

You should be aware before you watch it that it includes his description of an attempt to take his life.

He wants to share his experience to help others going through it, which I think it will. When I was growing up experiencing the sorts of things Ben went through, it would have been useful to know that I wasn’t alone and that this was an illness not some defect in my character.

It’s also great that his friends and family share how this all was for them.

His openness drew praise from Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie who, last weekend, ran 117 miles in 3 days to raise money for a Scottish mental health charity. It’s not too late to donate to his effort.

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The January Blues: Desolation

Warning: discussion of suicide

Last week in my county division, someone stood at the edge of a motorway bridge with the intention of jumping off. Fortunately, the emergency services got there in time and their life was saved.

I know personally the devastation that suicide can bring on family and friends. My close relative died 26 years ago, and the ramifications are still deeply felt.

As the third in this January Blues series, I wanted to discuss the often hidden topic of suicide. Suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged 20-49 in England and Wales. About three-quarters of suicides in 2016 were male, and the highest rate was amongst men aged 40-44. For women, the age group with the highest suicide rate was 50-54 years. Around the world a person dies by suicide every 40 seconds, according to the World Health Organization.

Mental Health First Aid training teaches that you should bring up the topic if you have any suspicion that someone might be thinking of suicide.

Suicide can be prevented. Most suicidal people do not want to die. They simply do not want to live with the pain. Openly talking about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a life.

The opening line, “How are you doing?” can be followed by, “Is it all getting too much?” and “Are you thinking about ending your life?” and then “Have you thought how you might do it?”

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The January Blues: Depression

The still, dark days of January are often associated with heightened levels of depression. Actually, depression is omnipresent.

The charity Mind details depression as ranging from mild to moderate to severe. They list some types of depression:

  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)– depression that usually (but not always) occurs in the winter.
  • Dysthymia– continuous mild depression that lasts for two years or more.
  • Prenatal depression– it occurs during pregnancy.
  • Postnatal depression (PND)– occurs in the weeks and months after becoming a parent. Postnatal depression is usually diagnosed in women but it can affect men, too.

Depression can have many causes, but some are the stresses caused by lack of provision. For these, there are political solutions. For example,

  • Homelessness and lack of affordable housing can be highly stressful and lead to depression.
  • Not having enough money for bills and struggling on low pay can lead to depression.

Party policy should not focus on the economics of a policy argument, but rather on wellbeing. What can we do to create a healthy, fair and equal society? Those policies would lead to a more mentally-fit population. Someone who has food on the table and a place to sleep, with no worries about how the next month’s bills are going to be paid, is far less likely to be stressed and potentially depressed.

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My struggle with depression #timetotalk

Time to talk 2015University, for many, is a truly liberating, exciting experience. University gives you a chance to be independent for the first time, to get away from home, to meet new people from a range of backgrounds and a chance to throw yourself into new experiences in a new place in a different part of the country.

However, for many to start with, myself included, it can also be extremely daunting. I still remember seeing all of my belongings sitting in my front room ready to be carted off. Before then, I had been putting it off in my mind that I had to go and had not considered what it would be like to be leaving. I had a happy, settled home life, with a close group of friends, a great girlfriend and a loving family. Suddenly, I had to leave. My whole life had to be put into the boot of a car and moved 200 miles away. My friends, my family and my girlfriend, would all be scattered across the country and I was going to have to make a new start in a different place away from them. Although for some this is an exciting prospect, for me it was one that filled me with worry and trepidation.

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Opinion: Don’t tell me to cheer up

Time to talk 2015My name is Sarah and I am diagnosed with depression. I guess the diagnosis didn’t come as a surprise, I’ve always felt, well, kinda sad. I have been on medication now for over a year and sometimes I wonder if I will ever beat this thing.

It makes me angry when people tell me to “cheer up”, or “get over it” yeah how about you try “getting over” diabetes or a broken arm. My illness might not always have physical symptoms and it might be “all in my head” but it doesn’t make it hurt any less.

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Paul Burstow writes … Depression touches all of our lives

Depression #5 (staring at the park)Depression affects as many as 1 in 4 of us in our lifetimes, 1 in 10 adults at any one time. So the truth is, it affects all of us – whether we have experienced depression ourselves, or as partners, parents, children, siblings, friends and colleagues of those who have, and may well still suffer. The misery that it brings is cruel and pernicious – we know it shatters lives. But despite the fact that depression touches all of our lives, it is still far too poorly understood.

As Minister for Mental Health, I awarded government funding to the Time to Change campaign to challenge the stigma of mental ill health and I’m pleased to say that the funding has continued throughout this parliament, and should, in my view, continue in the next. It has been very successful and has helped change mindsets in a range of fields. Celebrities and politicians have been brave enough to talk publicly about their own experiences of depression, and it has helped.

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