Bring Depression Out Of The Shadows English Literature Essay

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When Emma Keller, 24, a PR from Hertfordshire, walked into her doctor's surgery, tears were spilling down her cheeks. "I knew I was down but I didn't know what was wrong with me," she explains. " I'd lost two stone in a couple of months, I'd convinced myself I must have an eating disorder, but the reason I wasn't eating wasn't because I wanted to be thin, it was because I just didn't feel like doing anything." Emma's instincts were right she didn't have an eating disorder at all. Her GP listened to her as she explained how she no longer cared about her appearance; how she couldn't be bothered to keep her house tidy; how she was getting into debt because she didn't open the bills that came through her letterbox; and how she was struggling to drag herself into work because she'd sit in bed crying every morning. "And she diagnosed me with severe depression," she whispers, as if ashamed. Statistics show Emma is far from alone. One in six women aged 16-34 have depression, and that figure is expected to rise as our lifestyles become harder to cope with. [1] 

A whopping 64% of women will suffer from depression at some point in their lives, and it's the most common reason for visiting your GP. [2] But what exactly is depression? " If you've gone through a big life change, like switching jobs, losing someone close to you, breaking up with a boyfriend, it's natural to feel down- and actually healthy to," explains Bridget O' Connell, Head of Information at mental-health charity mind. "The trouble comes when the feeling don't go away." Symptoms of depression can include extreme lethargy, a feeling of complete hopelessness, being unable to see any positives, crying constantly, and significant changes in your sleeping and eating patterns. "If these symptoms are interfering with your life for a period of a month or longer, or if they keep returning on a regular basis, then you may have depression," explains Bridget.

YOUNG WOMEN ARE AT RISK

Young women are particularly at risk. "Women in their twenties experience lots of changes- their finishing education , getting their first job and then trying to work their way up the career ladder, moving away from their parents and trying to buy their own homes," explains Bridget. So, while it's an exciting time full of opportunities, there's also a lot of pressure on your shoulders. "Women expect a lot from themselves anyway. They want the amazing career, the house, the car, the busy social life and the 'perfect' partner - which can all become a bit overwhelming," she continues. And the recession has just made things worse. In fact experts believe that as a result of recent rises in workplace stress and redundancies, depression is rocketing.

It's something that Caroline Atkinson, 34, an administrator from Enfield, knows all too well. She first suffered from depression at the age of 25, when she started to feel stressed in her new job as a manager of a book shop without enough staff. "I just wanted to go to sleep all the time, and I wouldn't wake up not wanting to face the world," she explains. "I felt like a robot - I was doing my job, but I felt dead inside." It wasn't until Caroline left the shop weeping uncontrollably one day, that she realised that she could not longer go on feeling the way she was. In the end she went to her GP, where she was diagnosed with depression and put on a course of anti- depressants.

But depression doesn't always have an obvious trigger, and that can make it harder to diagnose. Zong Chan, 25, a sound engineer from London, was diagnosed with depression, aged 22. "I didn't understand how I could be depressed when I had a great job and good friend," she says. After months of feeling down Zong went to see her doctor, who prescribed anti-depressants and therapy to help her recover. Her therapist encouraged her to stop looking for a cause, which helped ease the way she was feeling. "It made me realise that some people just feel this way, and once I'd accepted that, I could work out how to manage it," she explains.

One of the main problems with depression is that, unlike stress, migraines or other illnesses, women often feel ashamed or embarrassed talking about it, so they suffer in silence.

"Women feel like they should be 'up' at all times, so they find it hard to admit when they're not coping and are depressed. They don't want to take sick days but their work often begins to suffer," explains Suzie Vestri, Campaign director of the 'see me' mental-health- awareness campaign (www.seemescotland.org.uk). "And the more you try to fight it, the worst it can get."

This is something Vivienne Coyte, 24, a marketing manager from Clacton, can understand. "I tried so hard to fight my feelings. I'd sit at my computer at work and what should have taken five minutes took me four hours. It was terrifying, I'd always been ambitions and career-driven, but I couldn't do anything. I spent hours crying in the toilets, worrying what people would be thinking. I was frightened they'd think I was weak or, worse still, nuts."

Seek the right kind of help

Evidence shows that one in four people with a mental health problem have not contacted any professionals about it. [3] 

But you wouldn't beat yourself up about having the flu, so why beat yourself up about an illness like depression? And if you seek help, you will get better- it's just important you get the right sort of help. That's another reason we're launching the turn that frown upside down campaign - we want you to know exactly what help is available, and where you can go to get.

According to many healthcare experts we spoke to, young women who are diagnosed are usually offered a one-pill-fits-all course of anti-depressants as standard.

Of course, in many cases, these can be hugely effective, but we'd like to see more varied forms of treatments made available. After all, not everyone wants to take a course of Prozac. Counselling, psychological therapy, diet changes and exercise can also be hugely helpful.

"It's a common problem" says Bridget O'Connell from mental-health charity Mind. "We don't think women should be offered medication without any other treatment, medication can be very effective, but it shouldn't be the first and only treatment, and it should be used with a combination of others."

For Caroline, Prozac was prescribed after just five minutes in the doctor's surgery. She explains, "I wasn't offered anything else. I was given Prozac and signed off work for two weeks. But the pills made me feel more agitated and, at my lowest points, even suicidal."

Explore all the options

GPs are also concerned about the lack of options and help made available around the country for those suffering from depression. The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) are calling for more access to psychological therapies.

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines recommend several psychological therapies for depression, but most people who need them can't get access to them. GP's are often unable to refer people for psychological therapies- or can do so only with very long waiting times," said a spokesman for the RCGP.

It's something Catherine Marcus, 31 an accountant from Barnet, can relate to. She first fell ill in 2004. "I'd been feeling really awful, then, one day, I just couldn't get out of bed. My mum and grandmother had both suffered from depression, so I visited the doctor, who put me on Prozac." Catherine explains, she did offer me Cognitive Behavioural therapy (CBT), too, but by the time my name got to the top of the list, it was seven months on, and thankfully I felt better."

But four years later, in 2008, Catherine fell ill again after breaking up with her long-term partner. "I wasn't eating properly, going out or sleeping properly. It spiralled into feeling suicidal and self-harming, so I ended up checking myself into hospital." (There has been an 80 per cent increase in self-harm among women aged between 16 and 24 since 2000) [4] Like many people who are depressed, Catherine didn't feel able to tell her friends how she was feeling. "When they eventually found out they were really shocked because I was still managing to go to work. It was the rest of my life that was falling apart. When I finally had CBT it helped me to realise when I was feeling down, so that I could stop myself from feeling that way again," she explains. The department of Health say more awareness is needed to fight the stigma surrounding depression. Care Services Minister Phil Hope claims work is being done to make sure sufferers get the treatment they need. "The Government recognises the importance of helping people with depression, and that's why, since 2007, there has been a £173m investment programme to improve access to psychological therapies. [5] 

Evidence shows these are at least as effective as medication, and better at preventing relapse." But he also concedes that there is "more to be done to ensure everyone gets access to NICE psychological therapies when they need them." All the young women that were interviewed said that without them they don't feel they would have recovered. So take inspiration from Emma, Caroline, Zong, Vivienne and Catherine, and stop suffering in silence.

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