Archive for May, 2016

Depression/stress & the whole damn thing

Friday, May 13th, 2016

Sir: There is connection between the cases of Sheridan Smith, Sally Brampton and “Depression is the ‘new normal’” (May 10th). Causation is complex, and depression and anxiety hard to understand for the sufferer and the doctors who treat it. Also it comes in many different manifestations and can lead to physical illnesses and also be triggered by them. Very often it is more disabling than physical conditions which are so much more comprehensible. A broken leg may be visible but sufferers of anxiety can be adept at concealment. It seems Sally Brampton looked well and happy just a few days before her death.  

Depression may be caused by a whole range of life situations like loss and entrapment, most obviously the feeling of there being no way out, or simple overload. Sufferers are so confused by their terror they cannot conceive of treatment or medication that could possibly help them. Stress was a word barely known in my childhood although every generation has its difficulties. My own mother suffered from fifties “housewife depression” which was rife at the time and usually borne in silence behind closed doors; every generation has its weak points. Now women, (who are more prone to this condition than men) are often being asked to do too much. The pendulum has swung the other way.

It is hardly surprising that CEOs of health trusts are hard to recruit. Perhaps they are sensible to guard their mental health and not push themselves into a maelstrom only to suffer burn out and exhaustion within a few years.

Whichever way you look it is obvious the country badly needs a blueprint for good mental health at all levels, not least because urgent strategies are needed to take the pressure off the NHS, (as Rachel Kelly points out in her piece, also on May 10th  (“epidemic of depression won’t be solved by pills”) and provide better support for sufferers.  As anyone who has developed clinical depression will tell you, a stitch in time saves nine. Left to fester the condition can become entrenched and cause joblessness and hopelessness. The SSRis were a game changer when they were developed and are excellent at kick-starting recovery. In combination with exercise, rest and healthy eating, and with the right support, depression can be beaten.

As the world is speeding up and life increasingly beyond our control we ignore this problem at our peril.

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