Experiences of depression and recovery in Australia

Messages to others

Most people we talked with wanted to pass on what they had learned from their own experience, and spoke about a range of things people could do to improve their lives. The majority of messages people wanted to share were directed to others with depression, and a few were directed towards health professionals.
 
Advice to others with depression
 
Talking with others about their depression was found to be helpful by most people. This included either talking with people who had been through similar experiences, with trusted friends and family, with health professionals, or with all of these. Sharing experiences was motivated by a desire to help others with similar experiences, but also to raise awareness of how it feels to live with depression. A number of people talked about the importance of acknowledging that they had a problem, as a first step towards addressing it. Many also advised looking for help as soon as people start feeling ‘something is wrong’, as delays in help-seeking might prolong suffering. A few people pointed out the importance of being well-informed about the latest developments in understanding depression and following information provided on relevant health websites, in the scientific literature, and in self-help books.
Peter said it was important not to identify with the illness – in his words, ‘I am not my illness and perhaps that’s the greatest gift I can give anybody that’s going through the same thing’. Others suggested living one day at a time. Amelia suggested that it was helpful to think about depression as an enemy that ‘has no right to get inside of us’ and that it was not peoples’ fault if they experienced depression. A few other people spoke about the importance of setting the goals, and challenging one’s own thoughts about depression. Some advised patience and understanding that recovery will not happen overnight but require effort and time. As Sara put it: ‘You just need an inordinate degree of patience when you are at your most desperate’.
 
Others stressed the importance of taking responsibility for oneself and encouraging people with depression to help themselves. Dani said that while she thought that someone else was going to ‘fix’ her, this did not work. As she explained, ‘I can ask for all the help in the world but inevitably I have to make the first few steps and look after myself’. Phil suggested taking an active approach to one’s depression: ‘And not just sit back and expect people to be knocking at your door going, "Can I help you with this?"’
It was also acknowledged that families of people with depression need to look for support, as they ‘definitely get the side effects of depression’. Several people emphasised that families being supported helps the person with depression as well, as their family is better equipped to support them (see Family, friends and partners’). A few people mentioned that joining support groups could be very helpful for people experiencing depression. Some advised that everyone should put themselves first from time to time, and also let friends and family prioritise them and show their care.
A few people were confident that it is best to look in the first instance for support and reassurance from medical professionals, particularly trusted GPs who had known them over a long period of time. Ivan commented: ‘Professional treatment by a good doctor can bring a satisfying result. I am a living example.’ The main reasons outlined for talking to GPs were that GPs could provide appropriate referrals and prescribe medication, if this was the preferred treatment option. A few suggested that people experiencing depression should be willing to spend time and effort looking for the right GP and experimenting with different treatments until they found what worked for them. Others argued that there was no reason to be afraid of trying medication for their depression.
A couple of people who had been bullied at school for being different talked about strategies for avoiding this.
A few people recommended undertaking psychotherapy or counselling available through the government initiative 'Better Outcomes in Mental Health Care' and associated mental health plans.
Advice to health professionals
 
People provided a range of suggestions to health professionals treating people with depression. These included giving enough time to their patients, providing information that is easily understood, carefully explaining the diagnosis and antidepressant medication, if they were prescribed, offering various treatment options without favouring one above the other, and providing people with choices. Those seeking help were advised to find an understanding doctor who ‘knows your pain’. Other important components of depression care included a need to feel reassured, timely and accurate diagnosis, access to doctors when needed, doctors who conveyed a genuine interest in and compassionate care for their patients, and doctors who kept up with the latest knowledge about depression and treatments and made this available to patients. Another piece of advice was the importance of conveying a sense of hope to their patients and working together with them on getting better, even if this took a long time. Others described occasionally encountering patronising approaches while involved in depression awareness campaigns and other activities. Ron suggested it would be useful for the health system in general to focus on prevention, early intervention, and look at other potential causes, including the family situation, or the role of alcohol, which he said was a ‘cultural norm in our country’.

Last reviewed January 2016.
Last updated January 2016.

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