Today marks the end of Mental Health Awareness Week.
We hear the phrase frequently these days.
We have either experienced it ourselves or know someone who has.
But do we really understand it? Do we know how to recognize it? Do we know how to support those facing mental health issues?
If I’m honest, my answer to these questions is ‘no’. And how do I know this? Because it took ten months for me to realize after the birth of my second child that I was, in fact, clinically depressed.
I thought everything I was feeling and experiencing was normal, that this is how it is after you have another child. My concerned husband and family members kept checking up on me, asking sporadically, “Are you ok?” “Are you sure you’re ok?” Yes, yes, yes. I’m fine.
Until, one day, I’d had enough of hearing these questions so I googled symptoms of postnatal depression. To say I was surprised, speechless, shocked, would be an understatement. I ticked off almost every symptom on the check list. It sounded like they were describing me.
I booked in to see my doctor but thought it was rather foolish as I still felt fairly normal. Lo and behold, she stated it was most definitely postnatal depression and set the ball rolling for me to return to my real self.
I look back now and realize how unlike myself I was at that time, without even realizing it. I look at myself now and realize what ‘normal’ actually looks and feels like.
So, is the question ‘Are you ok?’ still important? Does it need to be asked?
However, perhaps for some, it may need to be explained further….
“What does ‘ok’ look like? feel like? sound like?”
Listed below are symptoms of depression, strategies and contacts. Don’t ignore the thoughts and feelings, don’t pass it off as ‘normal’, seek help if you or a loved one are experiencing any of the symptoms.
I’m so glad I did.
What is Depression?
“For around one in seven women the stresses and emotional changes that accompany their postnatal experiences can be intense and include strong depressive mood swings, anxiety, social withdrawal, irritability and loss of enjoyment in usual activities.” – www.blackdoginstitute.org.au
“A person may be depressed if, for more than two weeks, he or she has felt sad, down or miserable most of the time or has lost interest or pleasure in usual activities, and has also experienced several of the signs and symptoms across at least three of the categories below. (It’s important to note that everyone experiences some of these symptoms from time to time and it may not necessarily mean a person is depressed. Equally, not every person who is experiencing depression will have all of these symptoms).” – www.beyondblue.org.au
Signs and Symptoms
· not going out anymore
· not getting things done at work/school
· withdrawing from close family and friends
· relying on alcohol and sedatives
· not doing usual enjoyable activities
· unable to concentrate
· lacking in confidence
· 'I’m a failure.'
· 'It’s my fault.'
· 'Nothing good ever happens to me.'
· 'I’m worthless.'
· 'Life’s not worth living.'
· 'People would be better off without me.'
· tired all the time
· sick and run down
· headaches and muscle pains
· churning gut
· difficulty sleeping
· the need to sleep more than usual
· loss or change of appetite
· significant weight loss or gain
· panic attacks
· loss of libido
· fears for baby’s or partner’s safety or wellbeing
· lack of energy
How common is it?
One million Australians currently suffer from depression
Postnatal depression affects 14% of new mothers in Australia
Depression will affect one in seven Australians at some point in their lives
After heart disease, depression will be the leading medical cause of death and disability within 20 years
Where can I go for help?
It may help to talk to a family member or friend. If you are experiencing some or many of the above symptoms that are causing you concern, your Doctor, Midwife, or Child and Family Health Nurse can provide you with assistance or arrange for you to see a specialist.
How can I explain depression to my child?
Pick a time that is quiet and without interruptions.
Tell the truth about depression using words that your child can understand.
It is ok to say "I don't know the answer" or "I will have to find out the answer to that."
Let your child know that mental health problems are treatable, that you are getting help and that you can get better.
Encourage your child to talk about their feelings with you or another adult they trust.
Be ready to answer questions. Keep in mind that an older child may ask more detailed questions.
Be aware of how your child responds to what you say.
Let your child know that it is OK to talk about their feelings or ask questions about your illness with you or another adult that they trust.
Let your child know that your depression is not their fault and they are not responsible for fixing it
For more information and help
www.beyondblue.org.au or call 1300 22 4636
Kids Help Line: 1800 55 1800
Stay tuned for next fortnight’s blog post as I’ll be looking at the increasing problem of depression in children.