Self-help resources for depression

Initially at least, posters, booklets and leaflets (e.g. from self-help organisations, GP surgeries, health centres) can be useful sources of information. However, such sources are limited by the amount and quality of information they can contain. For instance, one woman was annoyed by the information in a leaflet that seemed to reduce depression to merely being a low mood, rather than being the complete despair she felt. Also, informative notices, booklets and leaflets about depression are not reliably available in convenient places. A woman who was disappointed by the lack of such information at her GP surgery found more about depression in women's magazines.

Receiving newsletters from self-help organisations (e.g. Depression Alliance and Mind) was a popular way of keeping up-to-date with information on depression. In particular, people could relate to the personal stories that were submitted to such newsletters. One man found that people's stories helped him to make better sense of what he had been through himself.

In trying to get a better handle on depression, self-help books were very popular. People found a range of books helpful. Many people had books recommended to them, or visited a library or bookshop to see what was available and find a book that suited them. The choice of book is very personal. Nevertheless, research suggests that certain books are helpful in depression.

Some people had found books that put words to their experience. For instance, one woman learnt how to better deal with the 'chatter box' in her head through reading a cognitive behavioural therapy style book. Another women's counsellor gave her Dorothy Rowe's 'Depression' The Way Out of Your Prison'. She found it made sense of her feelings of guilt and how she was not looking after herself. A woman with strong spiritual beliefs found a book that contained helpful 'thoughts for the day', prayers and meditations.

Many people now search for information on the Internet and some are so motivated to research their condition that they read academic journals obtained from the Internet or libraries. Through library work, one man was able to understand how his tendency to ruminate (continually over think things) was contributing to his depression. Others explained that specialist books could be ordered on the Internet, and journal articles and information can often be downloaded free.

The Internet is also an increasingly important source of 'virtual support.' One woman described the Internet as a “treasure chest”. Some had found local support groups through mental health-related websites.

Internet support is particularly helpful for those lacking confidence. This is because people can 'lurk' in chat rooms and watch discussions before participating, or discuss issues with others anonymously, without having to talk to people face-to-face. The story of one man (who was extremely distressed by thoughts of suicide) demonstrates the potential benefits of the Internet, as well as its risks. He visited an Internet discussion group about suicide when he was suicidal. He discovered it was populated by other very depressed people who were also suicidal. While this could be a dangerous forum for a suicidal person, he gained comfort from the discussion group through knowing he was neither alone in his thoughts, nor some kind of monster because of his thoughts.

The Internet can also be used to 'demystify authority', gather information about treatment options, the side effects of drugs and withdrawal symptoms before and after visiting doctors. That way people can check up on the doctor's advice, become more informed about treatments, and work out the right questions to ask ahead of time. As one woman said, people need to be 'forewarned' and 'forearmed'. A woman in her thirties learnt about the importance of using the Internet through experience of memory loss after ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy). Another concluded that Seroxat (paroxetine) was at least partly responsible for her suicide attempt after reading other people's accounts on the BBC Panorama website.

Last reviewed September 2017.
Last updated September 2017.


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