Depression is a very common illness

Depression is a very common illness.

People feel down, depressed
and hopeless.

They take less pleasure and interest
in doing normal things

that they find interesting and
pleasurable than they would normally.

It goes on for more than two weeks.

We all have bad days
when we feel a bit low.

If that goes on for a day or two,
that's unfortunate, but it's life.

But if you have those feelings
and they go on for more than two weeks,

that's probably depression.

We tend to divide depression up
into mild, moderate and severe.

Mild depression is very common.

People can have mild depression

and will often recover
with some self-help measures

that they can institute themselves
over a couple of weeks.

It's very common in general practice
to see someone who's depressed.

If you give them simple measures to look
after themselves, they will recover.

When they come back in a couple
of weeks, they're much better.

Someone who's moderately depressed
may recover with those measures

or may need some help with either
medication or talking treatment

whereas someone
who is severely depressed

almost certainly will need both
medication and talking treatment

to help them get better and stay better.

I think, first of all,
self-help is very important

and applies to any sort of depression,
mild, moderate or severe.

You can help yourself

and there are common things to do
that are very sensible.

If you're smoking too much, don't smoke
or try and reduce your smoking.

Don't use alcohol as a drug
because it's a very bad drug

and doesn't necessarily
help your mood at all.

You want to reduce your alcohol intake

down to or below
the recommended maximums

of about 21 units a week for a man
or about 14 units a week for a woman.

You shouldn't use street drugs
to try and help yourself feel better.

People can smoke cannabis
thinking it will help them feel better.

In fact, it tends
to make depression worse.

It isn't a good idea at all.

Eating plenty of fresh fruit
and vegetables,

eating well will tend
to make you feel better

and exercising is absolutely vital.

Exercise is a good way of feeling better
about yourself and it gets you out.

In general practice, about seven
out of ten people with depression

actually come and see their GP
with physical symptoms.

They might have headaches,
backache, tummy aches.

They may have alterations
in their appetite,

be losing weight or gaining weight.

They may have difficulty sleeping
and see that as a physical symptom

rather than something
that's psychological.

Other physical symptoms
people can have can be loss

of the normal physical appetites that
we all have, like for food or for sex.

People can lose those completely

and lose a lot of weight
when they're depressed.

To be worried about whether
you might be depressed or not,

you can reflect
on how you're doing at work

or whether you're maintaining
your friendships or not.

Are you ringing your friends
or are you waiting for them to ring you?

Are you taking an interest
in your family?

When did you last do something
special with your kids?

Often, people who are depressed will do
none of those things. That's very sad.

If someone hasn't responded to those
self-help measures after a few weeks,

if they're mildly depressed or if
they've got moderate depression,

then you need to have a discussion
with your GP about active treatment.

There are two sorts of treatment.

You can either have medication
talking treatment.

Traditionally, medication was
the main treatment that was available.

It's easily available
in the GP's surgery.

I just have to write a prescription

and the patient
can start the treatment right away.

Talking treatment used not
to be available so widely.

But with the Improving Access
to Psychological Therapies programme

that's being rolled out
across the country,

there's more talking therapy,
especially cognitive behaviour therapy,

available quite rapidly in more
and more places in the country.

Sometimes, people can feel absolutely
when they're depressed.

They can have thoughts
of harming themselves.

Thoughts of self-harm are very common
when you're depressed.

Occasionally, people make plans or start
taking actions to harm themselves,

perhaps kill themselves even.

It's a good idea
to plan with your doctor

what you might do
if you ever get those feelings.

You could write down on a piece of paper

the phone numbers of the five people
you're going to telephone

if things get really bad
and you feel desperate.

Usually, three of them will be out.

You need five numbers to make sure
that you catch somebody who's in.

You could also put down on the list
your GP's phone number

and also the phone number
of the Samaritans

so that if you feel
absolutely desperate,

you know what you're going to do
before you get there.