Breaking Down the Stigma: Candid Conversations About Depression

 

Depression is a word that’s currently ringing in my ears. I’m receiving newsletters that tell me why my clients might have depression. Blog posts on how to get rid of depression. Social media posts on depression, and even a mention of depression at a dance event. I’ve heard people mention the lack of hope that comes with depression, and someone describe it as a breakthrough rather than a breakdown.

 

Depression comes up frequently when I’m working with clients, primarily because I ask the PHQ-9 questionnaire. The Patient Health Questionnaire-9 is a widely used screening tool and self-report questionnaire designed to assess the severity of depressive symptoms in individuals. Although it is not a diagnostic tool, it is a brief and reliable instrument used by healthcare professionals to aid in the diagnosis and monitoring of depression. The base of the PHQ-9 questionnaire is the diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder (MDD) outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

 

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Removing the stigma of Depression

 

Depression is a difficult mental health condition, with a long-running stigma due to societal discomfort and misconceptions. Thankfully, as awareness grows and individuals courageously share their experiences, there is a gradual shift towards breaking down the stigma associated with depression. Candid conversations about depression are key to understanding, empathy, and support for those affected by this illness.

 

At the heart of breaking down the stigma surrounding depression lies the necessity for open and honest dialogue. When people share their personal struggles with depression, they challenge preconceived notions and demonstrate that depression is not a character flaw or a sign of weakness, but a legitimate medical condition. By speaking candidly about their experiences, they invite others to empathise and educate themselves about depression, ultimately reducing the fear and judgment that often accompany discussions about mental health.

 

Candid Conversations about Depression

 

Candid conversations about depression help dispel common myths and misconceptions. One prevalent misconception is that depression is simply feeling sad or down. In reality, depression is a complex interplay of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors that can significantly impair the ability to function in daily life. By openly discussing the symptoms, causes, and treatments of depression, we can debunk myths and foster a more accurate understanding of the condition.

 

When we talk openly about depression, we create a sense of solidarity and support among those struggling. When people realise they are not alone in their experiences, it can alleviate feelings of isolation and shame, encouraging them to seek help and support. Sharing personal stories of resilience and recovery can inspire hope and empower others to take proactive steps towards their own mental health journey.

 

Everyone experiences life and depression differently, for this reason there is no one fix answer. Even the drugs don’t work for everybody. Candid conversations about depression help with understanding. To heal, I’m a firm believer in a few holistic lifestyle habits that generate the feeling of being picked up off the floor and dusted off.

 

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Nutrition

 

I feel an urge to write that nutrition is the most important thing for mental health. However, I know I’ll move onto the next point and want to write the same again. Nutrition is very important. As research progresses, we learn that it’s even more important than we previously thought. You are what you eat has never meant more than it does now. The supermarket shelves are full of confusing foods, with various marketing tricks plastered all over the packaging. The internet is awash with the next best diet trick, and society is continually suggesting we should look slim, but also display body positivity through not caring about our weight and image.

 

I highly recommend some sessions with a nutritional therapist if your financial situation allows. If not, I suspect you cannot go wrong by replacing processed foods with whole foods and eating the rainbow of vegetables (5 veg per day) each day. Whole foods

 

 are foods in the original form, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains (such as oats, brown rice, and barley), nuts, beans, lean unprocessed meats, fish, and eggs.

 

Sleep

 

In his book Why we Sleep, Matthew Walker recommends we all take a sleep opportunity of seven to nine hours per night. Think Like a Monk author Jay Shetty commits to this wholeheartedly and talks of prioritising his sleep. He will regularly turn things down if it interferes with his sleep rhythm.

 

We often talk about sleep and depression together. Sleep problems cause depression, or depression causes sleep problems. You want to sleep too much, or you cannot sleep. There is absolutely a correlation, but your experience may be vastly different to someone else’s.

 

Sleep is crucial to a healthy mind and body. Sleeping after alcohol or pharmaceuticals, such as sleeping tablets, will not allow your body to perform the normal processes of sleep. Try to work out a happy bedtime for your body and stick to it. Ensure you give yourself seven to nine hours of sleep opportunity. There are many habits that affect sleep, (you can read here to ensure you’re giving yourself the best chance of a good night’s sleep).

 

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Exercise

 

Exercise offers numerous benefits for everyone, but especially those struggling with depression. Engaging in regular physical activity increases the production of endorphins, your body’s natural mood elevators, and reduces levels of stress hormones such as cortisol. Exercise promotes better sleep, increases self-esteem and self-confidence, and provides a sense of accomplishment, all of which contribute to improved mood and well-being. Participating in group exercise fosters a sense of community, which, as social creatures, we all need.

 

There are no ‘must dos’ with exercise. A group class, or an online workout at home. Two hours, or ten minutes. A formal workout plan, or a meander through the forest. You do you. Anything that gets your body moving is beneficial.

 

Human Connection & Reconnection with Nature

 

Even the most introverted among us need human connection. As previously mentioned, we are social animals that evolved to live in tribal communities. The technological world in which we exist pulls us further and further away from the way your body expects to live. It’s only the most recently developed part of our brains, the human consciousness, that perceives this way of living as normal. And for many, even that part doesn’t view it as normal! Because it IS our normal, it feels OK – until it doesn’t.

 

Although reconnection with nature and human connection seem like two distinct categories, they interlink so much that they become one. Life makes us appear separate from the natural world. As if nature is one group and human beings another. The thought that we are as natural as the trees outside the window is a grounding one. Although I expect the ecosystem would thrive without us, we could not survive without it. Removing yourself from the technological world and immersing yourself in the natural world, giving yourself time to use all your senses with nature as the only input, will do wonders for your mind and body. Remembering all the while that other humans are part of the natural world too.

 

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