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Depression and recovery in Australia

Searching for information

Most people we talked with reported actively searching for information about depression. They used diverse sources of information and different things worked for different people.
 

Clinton took a very methodical approach to learning more about depression and its treatment.

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Age at interview: 38
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 19
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And so from doing a lot of this checking and talking to other people with similar conditions and things, they would give me things that worked for them, then I'd remember those things and write them down. Do a little bit more research on maybe how someone from, say, [university name], or someone who was studying it, a trained psychiatrist, a website, a government run website, how they - any information they may have. Talked to friends. And then when I had a compiled, group of things, I'd try them out. And the things that worked for me I'd keep, and the ones that didn't I'd throw away. 
 
And the great thing is also with websites these days, and the internet, there is always a place where you can go. And the government websites are always a good place to start, or [NGO name]. 
 
Various internet sites were mentioned. A few people commented that the internet was helpful as a starting point, in the absence of prior knowledge about depression. For people in the early stages of working out what was going on with them, information vailable online helped them to come to terms with their experiences. For some, this information was what motivated them to seek treatment. Talking with other people who had experienced depression was useful for others. A few women who experienced perinatal depression recalled receiving some print information from maternal and child health nurses. Some mentioned reading medical journals, particularly those who were looking for the latest information on medication and the most recent developments in research into the causes of depression.
 

Linda said that access to information on the internet was useful in helping her to understand her...

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Age at interview: 26
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 19
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Look when I first was diagnosed with depression I didn't even know what it was to be honest. I knew what it was but I had no real knowledge and assumed that it was, depression was associated with a tragedy or something like that. To be quite honest I don't really, I don't really ever remember using any resources. I went to a counsellor who, you know, explained what it was and what caused it and that sort of thing but I don't - there was no real awareness around it at that stage that I had access to.  But now obviously in recent years (mental health support NGO name) have been promoting, you know, promoting depression…
 
…and making people aware of it and it's a much more - you know I've used the website lots of times. Just gone on and just had a look at what depression is and the little quizzes and, you know, reading other people's stories. And that really helps - that really helped to know that there's other people in the same boat. Because when you don't know someone who's in the same boat…
 
Because there's nowhere to go and your doctor tells you you've got depression and gives you tablets and then you go to a counsellor and you tell them how you're feeling. But you still don't really know exactly what it is that's going on, so yeah.
 
 
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For Troy and his mother the internet helped in identifying the nature of Troy's experiences and...

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Age at interview: 22
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 21
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All I looked at, and this was before I think even Mum suggested it actually, was the [mental health NGO] website. It was just under like, you know, things like symptoms and stuff and I was just like, oh yeah , oh yeah , oh yeah. That's, you know - that was with, my best friend. Yeah, we were, I can remember that. We were just sitting on the bed or whatever looking at it, and then there was Mum's suggestion. That might have been after Mum suggested it actually but before treatment, yeah. Because I remember, because Mum suggested it sort of the Christmas Eve and then I went away for a while over to [country name] and then came back. And then we decided to start treating, to go the GP. So I think it was in that period where I was with my friend looking at the website. And Mum did a whole lot of stuff [laughs], I think she went, started trawling through the internet and stuff, to find stuff out.

 

Andrew preferred the internet to reading books about depression.

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Age at interview: 51
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 43
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Okay. I’ve, I’ve been on (mental health support NGO). I’ve actually been onto the computer, as you see I’ve got one,  and I’ve actually looked up a lot of literature on depression. The signs of depression , different people who have actually sort of worked their way through depression and how they’ve changed their life and stuff like that. 
 
I’m not a great reader of books. I endeavoured to get a few books out. There was one there called Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. Yeah I got about a quarter of the way through it and I just lost the whole, the whole plot. 
 
Never been - not a good, not a good - for me reading and relating those concepts in your mind have never been good. I’m more give me a computer, let me read it, a lot easier that way. Now if they had computers 30 years ago at school I would have been a whiz. But yeah I’m more the visual sort of guy or doing it and learning it that way.
 
Some people had family members who had experienced depression. They felt they gained enough knowledge about depression by observing and talking with their family members and did not need to look elsewhere for information. A few were content with the information they had received from their treating health practitioners. Some consciously decided not to search for information as they were concerned that they might find something they were not prepared to face. Some also questioned whether access to information necessarily helped make people better.
 
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Amelia had concerns about the benefits of learning more about depression.

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Age at interview: 51
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 38
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If I do that maybe it will make me think about it, and maybe that'll be scary and I might learn something about myself or I have to actually face up to something or do something. And I don’t want to because my, my strategy is avoid and don’t think and get really busy. 
 
Because, with my parents - particularly my Mum - she was always a very, very active health consumer. And so she was constantly - like especially to do with monitoring what she ate and whether that related to whether she was feeling worse, or what exactly she did, or - for example, with her arthritis did she cook in an aluminium saucepan or had she had a different kind of bloody whatever, or this gluten or that whatever.
 
And, with dad's asthma, was it because he had this particular colourful vegetable or that whatever? 
 
And I just have seen their lives become so limited by those things, and I don’t see them getting any better. I don’t see it making a difference. And so it's... kind of like - I wonder, I wonder if maybe that's why I don’t go there looking for information and being an active health consumer and that kind of thing. I wonder if that's - perhaps there is.
A couple of people found information on depression on the internet and in books too impersonal and could not relate to the content. Some were also critical about what they saw as a tendency for self-help books to place responsibility for depression and getting better primarily on the person experiencing it. Others felt that there was no need to search for additional information once their treatment was working. Some believed that each person’s experience of depression was unique and so doubted that other people’s stories would be helpful. Others found talking to other people experiencing depression only made them feel worse.
 

Safra found both the internet and self-help books unhelpful.

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Age at interview: 56
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 52
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Do you, do you ever look or did you look for any information about depression? 

 
I did once, but I found it so cold. It, it was the wording was very, not personal. So nobody understands what you are going through at that moment. 
 
On the computer?
 
Yeah. And when you read books it’s always about you, you can do it, you can get out of it. You can do this, you can do that, you can do this, you know, and self help books and all that, but it’s a…
 
You read books?
 
One or two, but it’s a quick it’s just a band aid. It’s not real. 
 
 

Stephanie’s treatment for depression – antidepressants and counselling - was so effective that...

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Age at interview: 35
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 29
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I, because it was so effective for me, because the medication was so effective, I just said oh well, this is working, I'll continue with it. I'm and plus also because I have a tendency to overanalyse things if I - especially to do with illnesses and things, and so I, once when I was when I was feeling - now that I, it's hard for me to know what my decision making process was when I was feeling really bad because everything was just so bad. But when I was, definitely when I was feeling better, when I had other medical problems, and I had a few I made a decision to talk to my doctor and do maybe a little bit of reading, but then if it all matched up I'm not going to read any more. 
 
Because for me all other people's experiences and things like that, even though like, this study for me, I probably wouldn't look at it because it's not for me, I don't generally listen to those kinds of things and read those kinds of things because I think everybody's experience is different and - but I can see that other people, it's helpful for them. So I, no I didn't. I really didn't and I yeah , I have no desire to either, because I just think well if it's working for me I'll continue with that. 
 
Sara who was also a trained counsellor had mixed feelings about literature on depression which portrayed the condition as a ‘social construct’. She also noted disagreements about the causes and treatments of depression within the scientific community which she learned about after reading particular books her psychiatrist had recommended.
 
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Aware of the different debates and perspectives on depression, Sara advised taking a cautious...

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Age at interview: 55
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 43
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I went off and looked at it and read it and have spent quite a bit of time understanding the process a bit more and understanding the sub diagnosis that he makes and I know that they’re not very popular  and I know that there’s a marked split in the psychiatric community with that and I think that’s a real shame. Because the argument is that there is no evidence for it. Well, clinically there is.
 
But the second part of that is I think that we live in a world where, for many people, and particularly young people, we’ve created an expectation that we need to be happy all the time. And that, if we’re not happy all the time then, and everything isn’t going the way we want it to go, then, then we’re depressed and I don’t think that’s true, necessarily.
 
And I’ve been interested in some of the literature that’s coming out around that. That idea of it sort of being a social construct, that, you know. But I still think people do get terribly depressed [laughs]. And hopefully more of them get some more help these days than they used to in the past. So I think you’ve got to be, I feel like I - you really need to be careful with that stuff.
 
A few people mentioned reading self-help books. A couple of people found the content and advice provided in these books useful for them, however others were more sceptical.
 

Rosie was looking for information on antidepressants immediately after her son died, but her main...

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Age at interview: 48
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 44
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Yes. I didn’t really find out any information on anti-depressants. I might have done a Google search, perhaps once, but I don’t remember , getting any specific information on anti-depressants. I think I probably, a few people might have said to me, yes I’ve taken them, they were good, no I haven’t, blah, blah, blah. That was probably the extent of the information I sought. In terms of depression, I read lots. Probably more on grief rather than depression. 
 
At the funeral, a couple of people gave me books on how to handle grief and losing a child. I bought, I went to Borders and bought another two or three books on how to survive the loss of a child and I’ve read them front cover to back cover. I read at the time, so this is within the first 12 to 18 months, I read a number of books that other people wrote on losing their child. So I found those things helpful in terms of dealing with my own grief, my own depression. 
 
The counselling service has information fact sheets and I’ve got all those still on depression, on grief. I read all them front cover to back cover. I did a lot of searches on the internet just about the whole grief, depression, and I did look at the [mental health support NGO] depression site back then as well. I certainly haven’t done all that in the last 12, 18 months, two years. But I did it back then.
 
 

Peter found books on Buddhism had more integrity than many other self-help books.

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Age at interview: 49
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 36
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And in the meantime you know, I was trying to read as much as I could, you know, picking it up and my wife was bringing me fairly easy things to read. You know, this was over the course of a couple of years. Sometimes I could and sometimes I couldn't. But I started reading some books by the Dalai Lama and other - I'm loathe to say self-help books. I mean they, they really were commonsense books that were, you know, by people like the Dalai Lama and people that, that had some sort of integrity, not just this fluffy dolphin thing. 

 

Belinda expressed scepticism about self-help books because some of them had ‘very clear agendas’...

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Age at interview: 35
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 25
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I loved them, I loved them but I think; well now I am not into them at all but I certainly tried to find the answer to why I felt so empty. And you know, you know, I read through a lot so, but now I am not into them because maybe I feel that they don’t apply to me anymore. I don’t feel that I can find the answer in them. Plus, also some of them just say some ridiculous things. You know some of them have got, not all of them but some have got some very clear agendas and I’m not into that. 



Last reviewed January 2016.
Last updated January 2016.
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