Stress, anxiety and depression

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'Talking to people helped my depression'

Matthew, now in his fifties, has had periods of depression since he was in his late teens. He found that belonging to a self-help group has helped him cope.

Matthew works in the learning support team of a further education college in Hertfordshire. He helps students who have learning and physical needs.

Since he was in his late teens, Matthew has experienced periods of depression. These have included some severe bouts, when he was unable to work and found it difficult to leave the house. He has had different types of treatment over the years, including antidepressant medication and, more recently, counselling. He finds his weekly session with a counsellor especially useful. 

Here, Matthew describes how he first went to a self-help group and how it has helped him deal with his depression.

"After my mum died in 2000, I went through a bad patch for about a year. One of the doctors I saw at the time told me about Depression Alliance (DA) and its network of self-help groups for people affected by depression. I phoned them up and the Barnet branch of the DA, which was the one nearest to me, sent me a newsletter. At the time I couldn't cope with the idea of meeting other people, so I didn’t do anything.

"Then, a couple of years later, I did a course at Barnet College called Discover Your Potential, which was just what I needed.

"It’s a course that helps people with depression, or who have had a major life change, to regain confidence through learning new skills and interacting with one another. I think, for me, having a structure to the week, even though the course was only part-time, was extremely helpful. The course gave me a focus and something to work towards.

"When I was doing the course, I thought about Depression Alliance again. I asked for their newsletter again and this time I went along to a meeting. I've been going on and off ever since.

"Once a month our group organises a talk on something related to coping with depression. For example, we've had a talk by a yoga teacher about relaxation. Last month a lecturer came from Barnet College and talked about the current Discover Your Potential course. We've also had discussions about books that people have found useful.

"We all have different experiences of depression. In the group, there's a mix of men and women, young and old, and people from different ethnic backgrounds.

"As well as the main monthly meeting, there are 'check-in' meetings that happen about once a month. This is when we meet to discuss how we're feeling and what we’ve been up to since the last meeting.

"The number of people who attend meetings varies from three people to 20. Sometimes people don't feel up to coming, and sometimes we're all there.

"Our group also organises social events three or four times a year. In the new year we usually go out for a meal locally and in the summer we have a party at someone's house.

"I've been attending Depression Alliance meetings for about five years now and I've found it extremely helpful.

"One of the things I miss in life, because I live on my own, is not being able to share my day with anyone. Sometimes I'm quite happy to be on my own but sometimes I want company.

"The DA meetings get me out of the house. They give me somewhere to go where I see people I know. We have fascinating conversations about all aspects of life, not just depression. It provides a relief from your own thoughts and gives you a different perspective."

Self-help groups

Find out more about depression support groups, including other forms of support for people who don't want to attend group meetings. Find your nearest DA self-help group.

Coping with depression

Joining a self-help group is one of many steps you can take to cope with depression. It's not an alternative to seeking medical help for depression. There are many treatment options for depression, including talking therapies, antidepressant medication and self-help of various kinds.

If you’ve been feeling down for more than two weeks, see your GP to discuss your symptoms. They can tell you about the treatments available and what might be best for you.

Page last reviewed: 16/12/2013

Next review due: 16/12/2015


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