Getting help for depression
When you are depressed, you’re not your ‘normal self’. Nothing feels good, not even being with your best friends. It’s like your brain has been taken over by an alien that tells you everything is too hard, too sad and completely meaningless.
If you have depression you are not mad. It’s a temporary disturbance in your brain chemistry – your neurotransmitters – that affects your thinking, motivation, appetite and sleep and makes it incredibly hard to carry out our normal activities. If you are depressed you:
- can’t concentrate
- have insomnia (or sleep all the time)
- have no appetite (or you overeat)
- feel like crying all the time
- feel like everything is too hard
- feel exhausted and have no energy
- get angry and irritated easily
- feel hopeless and worthless
- think about death a lot
But depression is treatable, and the sooner you get help the quicker you will recover.
1. Tell someone how you feel
Telling someone is the first step to getting help. Please talk to your partner, your mum or dad or your best friend.
If you don’t feel comfortable reaching out to them, or it’s late at night, call or web chat with a counsellor at Lifeline (13 11 14), Kids Helpline (1800 551 800), Youth Beyondblue (1300 224 636) or mensline (1300 78 99 78).
2. Be kind to yourself
Watch a comedy, have a warm bath, take the dog for a walk – anything that feels soothing or enjoyable. Avoid alcohol as it will make you feel worse.
3. Keep a mood diary
Write down how you are feeling, or draw or paint something to express yourself. MoodGYM and ecouch (run by the Australian National University) provide free online treatment for depression (and anxiety).
4. Try mindfulness
Rather than trying to stop your negative thoughts, acknowledge them and accept them. Simply notice them as they arise, ‘That’s interesting’ and then let them go. Understand that they are only thoughts, and that you do not have to believe them. They will pass if you let them.
5. Stay safe
If nothing is shifting your mood:
- Please get a friend or relative to come over, or go to stay with them. Do not be alone with suicidal thoughts.
- Get rid of any items that you could use to hurt yourself.
- If you have been prescribed sleeping tablets, take a safe dose of these; even if you do not sleep, they will lessen your emotional pain. Doctors give people painkillers when they have bad physical pain; it’s the same for psychological pain.
When you wake up, things will often seem very different, and you can access help from family, friends and professionals.