Health

Depression 101

Despite the increasing number of awareness campaigns on the subject and the emergence of several mutual help resources, people with depression often feel alone with their pain, despair and questioning.

Prejudices die hard. However, depression is more serious and goes way beyond simple sadness. Daily life is turned upside down and put on hold. Seeking medical, pharmacological or psychological help is often necessary. Contrary to many beliefs, untreated depression rarely goes away by itself. Without the appropriate help, the symptoms worsen, the impacts on one’s life and loved ones become increasingly important and the mountain to overcome seems more and more insurmountable. At the same time, the suicide rate increases in an alarming way.

Symptoms

Depression is characterized by an ubiquitous state of sadness and despair, most of the day and most days for over two weeks. It also disturbs a person’s usual productivity and interpersonal relationships.

Many experts agree that the presence of a least five of the following symptoms suggest a state of depression:

  • Lack of interest, pleasure or motivation for most daily activities (even the fun ones!);
  • Sleeping problems : insomnia or excessive sleep;
  • Weight/appetite gain or loss ;
  • Fatigue or loss of energy;
  • Depressed mood, with or without crying;
  • Isolation;
  • Self-loathing, strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt;
  • Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things;
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.

Many other symptoms can be related to depression. Inner discomfort, a change in the perception of one’s life and a recurring, unusual and persisting sadness are all warning signs. If in doubt, you should never hesitate to get some information, talk about it and seek professional help. No one is immune to it...

Women

Rates of depression in women (20%) are twice as high as they are in men. This difference is in part due to hormonal factors (menstruations, pregnancy, postpartum depression, pre-menopause, menopause, etc.). When in need, women also tend to talk about it and seek professional help more easily than men, which could also explain the higher number of reported cases, according to some. Today’s lifestyles and social pressure also put women at greater risk. The desire to perform and be perfect in all their roles (mother, wife, lover, professional, etc..) is physically and mentally exhausting.

What about men?

It’s a known fact that men don’t talk about their feelings as much as women. For many, being depressed is seen as a sign of weakness. Men have often been raised not to cry and always be strong, no matter the difficulties they encounter. The fear of being judged by others is ubiquitous.

Anger, aggression, violence and reckless behaviour can hide the classic symptoms. Men have different ways of expressing their pain and sadness. Substance abuse (drugs and alcohol) and other problems may divert attention from the real problem and delay the diagnosis. Meanwhile, the situation is not improving and despair is gaining ground ... and so it the suicide rate.

The good news is that there’s a growing number of resources specifically for men, but they are still far from sufficient. Attitudes are beginning to change, but very slowly.

Children

Misunderstood and sometimes seen as an invention of society, depression in children is nevertheless very real. Because of their constantly evolving development, it is sometimes difficult to make the difference between a normal and passing behaviour and something that is not. You should keep an eye on the following:

  • Unusual loneliness, isolation;
  • Loss of interest for school and daily activities;
  • Agressive behaviour at school and with loved ones;
  • Sleep problems;
  • Mood changes : impatient, negative, emotional.
Treatment

There are several alternatives and it is important to explore the different options and their impacts on your life. Contrary to popular belief, the systematic use of medication is not always indicated. Psychotherapy alone is sometimes sufficient. The path to recovery and the return to normal life take time and discouragement is common. There is no point in skipping steps and risking a relapse, which is hard to accept and often more serious.

There are many organizations where you can go to find solace, talk with other people who are going through similar things, and where you’ll find the help you need to cope with everyday life and break the isolation. There are many resources in all regions of Quebec. For more information, check with your local HSSC or click on the links at the end of this article.

What happens next?

When your energy slowly starts to come back and the sky doesn’t seem as dark as it once was, there’s a big temptation to resume a normal life, and the danger is to then do too much. As with any other illness’s remission, you have to go step by step and listen to yourself. Many people want to prove that they’re strong and capable, often in response to their lowered self-esteem. You have to learn to say no, and it’s also a great opportunity to reflect on yourself and life in general. It’s a transition towards a healthier lifestyle, one that’s in line with your aspirations and values ​​. We often hear that people come out of it changed, often positively. However, having suffered from depression once does not immunize you against a relapse. That doesn’t mean that it will happen again either. Following your own pace and listening to yourself is paramount. Healing is not just possible; it’s the case for most people. You have to believe in it!

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