Mental illnesses such as depression, which is closely linked with anxiety, have became a modern day epidemic. A third of British women and a fifth of British men have been diagnosed with a mental illnesses by professionals, according to the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014, NHS Digital.
Depression affects an estimated 350 million people worldwide, and the World Health Organisation predicts that by 2030 more people will be affected by depression than by any other health problem. Has mental health among Brits drastically deteriorated or are we just becoming more aware and accepting of the concept?
Mental disorders are not unique to modern age. The predisposition behind some types of mental illness, along with life experiences and chemical assaults that can spark cognitive disorders, have always been part of human life. However, there has been a radical transformation in the general perception – and the way it is treated.
Depression – described as an overwhelming feeling of sadness and hopelessness that can last for months or years – can make people feel that life is no longer worth living. Not only that, but has been found to be the predominant worldwide disease burden in 2010 taken from the Global Burden of Disease study.
As well as unhappy feelings and emotional strain, depression has also been linked to ischemic heart disease and, in more severe cases, suicide.
Fiona Comber, 53, a branch manager from West Lothian said: “I think depression is the silent killer.
“It is different for every person and is a very personal thing, different people are affected by different things.”
The symptoms of depression are varied, and everyone’s experience will be different. But there are some common red flags to look out for in yourself and others.
1. Loss in interest of things that were once pleasurable.
A known depressive symptom is anhedonia, which is a lack of motivation in individuals. This could mean that engaging with others or participating in a hobby they once enjoyed will be disregarded, as it requires too much energy and instead, your friend may resort to lying in bed or watching TV. Someone who is in a constant low mood.
“One sign of depression is when someone shuts themselves off and they aren’t as mentally present as they used to be,” says Cathy Boode, a 21-year-old student from West Lothian.
Lounis Salim, a barista living in London, commented on his own personal experience with a friend who suffered from depression.
“My friend became distant from his friends and family and stopped caring about himself or things that once made him happy.”
2. Loss of confidence.
Depression can bring about thoughts of self-worthlessness, guilt and doubt in oneself or their future.
3. Sleeping difficulties.
This could include trouble relaxing and falling asleep, or waking up during the night – otherwise known as insomnia.
4. Irritability toward others.
People with depression often find it difficult to overcome everyday obstacles, or deal with problems such as social situations. This causes a person to become less tolerant and take it out on someone else that could later cause them feelings of guilt.
5. Changes in eating habits or weight.
Depressive symptoms could explain why some people go to food as comfort and eat more, whereas others may not even bother to eat. Therefore, weight loss or weight gain in an individual could be a physical sign of depression.
6. Difficulties at home or at work.
These could include family problems or not performing well at a job they were once good at.
Mrs Comber said: “Someone with depression may take more and more days off of work because they find it hard to cope with, which will cause them to fall behind.
7. Negative thoughts or suicidal ideation.
The common theme concerning depressed individuals is ‘what does it matter?’ Pessimistic and negative comments are possible signs of the illness. These could be passive or back-handed comments.
If you see some, or even just one of these signs, talking to the person must always be the first step. However, if you are truly worried for someone’s safety, call Samaritans on 116 123.