Depression is a common mental health condition with an estimate of one in 35 young Australians having experienced a depressive disorder at some stage in their life (according to Beyondblue). It’s not a matter of being “just sad all the time” but rather a low mood that doesn’t go away. People who suffer from depression find it hard to relax or to do activities that they enjoy. Sometimes the things that can cause this are changes in their life, including relationship problems, work issues, family conflict, our studies, and other matters.
“With some people, they say they find it really hard to get out of bed, go to sleep or even focus in lectures and tutorials. That’s how this low mood can impact on us,” said Cristina Pastore, one of the counsellors from WSU’s Counselling Service.
Cristina describes depression as being an experience where a person can feel somewhat sad or upset, or unable to enjoy anything, for a prolonged period of time. This feeling is difficult to shake off and can sometimes last for weeks or even months.
It can be hard to ask for help or to talk about how one feels for a number of different reasons. Fear of being labelled or stigmatised is one of them. Some people may lack close confidants, and others don’t really like to share their feelings.
This is where a counsellor may be able to help you. They can help you work out issues that may be troubling you, and help you discover ways of dealing with them.
“Sometimes students may come to a counselling session and say ‘I don’t know how I feel, I know I don’t feel right’,” said Cristina.
So how can you tell if someone is having depression? “Sometimes people can hide their low feelings, and at other times people around us can start to notice that things are not the same,” said Cristina. “It is important if we do hear our friends thinking about those kinds of thoughts, that we take it seriously.”
Some of the signs that one must look out for if they or anyone they know are feeling depressed are:
Behaviour changes – Are they struggling to go out or get any work done? Are they not enjoying activities? Or are they having difficulty concentrating?
Emotional changes – Are you feeling guilty or overwhelmed? Do now lack confidence begin to find it difficult to make decisions?
Physical changes – Are they starting to feel more tired frequently than they used to? Are they having difficulty sleeping? Are they feeling sick or has there been a significant change towards their weight?
Mental changes – Are you now blaming yourself? Do you think that the world and living life isn’t worth it anymore? Or do you feel hopeless yourself?
If you are showing any of these behaviours, or you have noticed them in your friend or family member, please consider taking it seriously as you (or your friend) may be suffering from depression, and professional help may be advisable.
“You don’t have to have a big problem – it doesn’t have to be a major issue to see someone. If you’re starting to feel sad, you can come to talk to someone,” said Cristina. “Don’t let it get worse.”
Have you tried confiding in your friends and family about your feelings? While they can be a good support network, it is important to understand that professional help is readily available to help you. The first step may be seeing a university counsellor, a GP or a telephone counselling service like Beyond Blue or Lifeline. Once you have taken the first step, you may be referred to a psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker to further help you along.
If you wish to seek the help from a university counsellor, here are the office locations:
There is also telephone and online support services such as Lifeline (phone 13 11 14) and BeyondBlue (phone 1300 22 4636) that can you contact at any time of the day or night to talk about your feelings.
Remember, you are never alone. All you need to do is find someone you trust to talk it out as this is the first step for recovery.