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Dealing with Depression - Adults

This page added 1 August 2011
By Sally-Anne McCormack (Clinical Psychologist)

In the previous article, I reported that between 5%-10% of children and teens suffer from depression.  As one would expect, the statistics for adults is much higher.  Around 20% of adults have depression according to current research, and these  numbers are continuing to increase.  

A real benefit for Australians is the fact that the Government has recognised the seriousness and pervasiveness of mental   illness.  This is fantastic for a number of reasons.  Much research has suggested that less than 25% of people with depression seek help for it.  That means 75% of people have to manage their illness without any professional assistance.  Better access to Medicare has enabled more people to meet with psychologists, social workers or other health professionals.  Prior to this    initiative, only those with private health insurance (with extras cover) were eligible for any fee relief at all.  Now there are a few professionals who offer bulk billing services for sessions, however it is more common that there is a gap between the    rebate and the actual cost (as there often is with doctors).  

For those wanting to access this service, you must get a referral from either your doctor (you must book a double appointment) or your psychiatrist.  If they decide that you meet the criteria for a Mental Health Care Plan, you will be given a referral and allowed initially to have 6 individual sessions (AND in addition you get 6 group sessions), then after a review, you are    permitted to have a further 6 individual AND group sessions.  

In the mean time, here are some tips to help you manage your depression (but it is important to note that these are not to be used as a replacement for professional help!).

Tip One.  Talk to a friend or relative.  When we are feeling depressed, we usually feel isolated.  Sometimes it seems that there is no-one who could possibly understand what we are going through, or perhaps we are embarrassed for feeling this way.  Our self-esteem decreases and we stop contacting those who care about us rather than asking them for their support.  Telling someone how we feel and letting them know what is going on helps them to understand the way we may be behaving, and perhaps they can help us in various ways.  It is also important to surround ourselves with positive people at this time because those who also have depression will just reinforce our   negative thinking patterns.  In addition, there are a number of studies showing that we can reduce our levels of stress if we make physical contact with another person (or a pet), so hug a loved one!

Tip Two.  Educate yourself.  In my practice, one of the most empowering moments for clients is when they find out that they are not alone.  Their illness makes them feel lonely and “hopeless”.  Many of us are not aware as to how common depression is and people tend to feel better when they learn more about the symptoms, and realise that these thoughts or behaviours are not their fault.  So search the internet, make phone calls, read books and articles, and understand more about your illness.

Tip Three.  Get some exercise.  There are a number of reasons for this.  Firstly, there is a chemical change in our bodies when we exercise.  It releases endorphins (the “feel good” chemicals) and makes us feel better.  It also improves our health and    ensures that our body is in its best possible condition!  It is also important at this time to watch what we eat and get plenty of sleep!

Tip Four.  Schedule pleasure activities.  It is important for us all to have something that we look forward to every day.  For some it might be ringing a grandchild or friend, or having a coffee at the local café.  Others may enjoy having a bath, listening to music, or reading a favourite book while curled up on the couch.  Some people choose to play a game (either sport or fun) or go for a swim.  Or even just take the dog for a walk.  Whatever you choose (and it may or may not be different every day), make sure that you put it in your diary so you do not forget to do it.  After we spend our day doing what we need to do (eg. work, volunteering, housework, etc.) we need to reward ourselves!    

Tip Five.  Feel your feelings.  It is OK to cry.  We need to allow ourselves to release stress hormones through our tears.  By   denying our feelings, we suppress our thoughts, therefore our thoughts become buried.  A major treatment for depression is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which involves examining and changing our thinking, so hiding these thoughts from     ourselves stops us from challenging our negative patterns and hinders our recovery from depression.

Tip Six.  Do NOT make major life decisions.  If it is at all possible to avoid this, then do so.  When our thinking is “foggy” or negative, we may not be making clear decisions in our best interest.  However, if they are unavoidable, then discuss them  thoroughly with a trusted loved one before coming to any conclusions!

Tip Seven.  Do relaxation exercises every day.  Finding time every day to do some relaxation lowers your stress levels overall during the day.  Some people practice yoga or tai-chi, others read, or listen to tapes or CD’s.  Even at work we can find at least one minute to sit at our desk and consciously   relax all the muscles in our body, but preferably find at least 15 minutes at some stage.  But make sure you do NOT try these exercises while you are driving!

Tip Eight.  Get some professional help.  The first thing you need to do is to see your doctor and get some advice!  He or she will know what the next step should be.
In summary, we need to look after ourselves.  We are unwell (which is not our fault) and we need some pampering.  Routines are essential – eating, sleeping, working, playing.  We must follow strict schedules (which reduces stress) and make sure we put some pleasurable and relaxing activities into our day.  Do not expect too much of yourself – it will take time to get better.  Blaming yourself or expecting yourself to fail are part of the negative thinking patterns that are due to your depression.  Try to either distract yourself from these thoughts or challenge them.  
Remember, there is a lot of help out there for you, you just need to reach out and ask!


Sally-Anne McCormack from WebPsychologist is a Melbourne clinical psychologist, media consultant, author, former teacher and a mother of 4.  Her first book -“Stomp Out The ANTs” – for people with anxiety and depression was launched by ADAVIC in March 2010.  Visit her websites -   www.WebPsychologist.com.au , www.CyberPsych.com.au and www.ParentsOnline.com.au which offer advice, resources and FREE email newsletters.

Sally-Anne is registered as a media spokesperson with the Australian Psychological Society (A.P.S.). She has practices in Blackburn and Burwood East, runs adult and child/teen groups for depression, anxiety and insomnia, sees individual clients.  Sally-Anne also offers online counselling.
She can be contacted via email (sally-anne@optusnet.com.au) or by telephone (03) 881 22 373.



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