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Health Matters - why it's important to discuss depression

Health Matters - why it's important to discuss depression
12 July 2017

Dr Paul Bowen, clinical chair of NHS Eastern Cheshire CCG, and GP with McIlvride Medical Practice, Poynton

Tackling some of the persistent taboos and misinformation on mental health has been in the news recently, affecting everyone from pop stars to princes.

It is an area as a GP I feel strongly about. A large proportion of my work is involved in managing mental health issues. One of the biggest challenges is helping patients accept, and then understand, their diagnosis.

One such diagnosis, depression, will undoubtedly affect you or someone close to you at some point in their life. It can manifest in many ways, through loss of interest and confidence, to anger or anxiety, to sleeplessness and confusion. People understandably feel they can shake off the symptoms, and there is good evidence that self-help and lifestyle change are beneficial, but guilt and low self-esteem make it difficult for people to seek help.

The reality is that depression can affect anyone, young or old, rich or poor, successful or unlucky in life.  The most unhelpful thing someone can say is “pull yourself together”. It’s a bit like asking someone suffering from an epileptic seizure to stop fitting, or an asthmatic to stop wheezing.

Depression is a crippling, disabling combination of symptoms that leave the sufferer at times unable to ask for or admit they need help, therefore only exacerbating their condition. As a GP, a lot of my time in that first important consultation is spent recognising how important it is that they have sought help, and that their recovery is more likely now they can admit that the part of their brain that controls their mood has stopped working as well, and that they cannot “think” themselves better.

Insight, acceptance and understanding depression and other mental health conditions are the key foundations to recovery. The next steps, which can include a change in lifestyle, practical support, counselling and talking therapies, time off or a change of work, complementary therapies, and medicines, can all follow. But it is that brave decision to seek help which is often the turning point. Talking about it, both privately or in public, can only help break the taboo and bust the myths around these important, common conditions.

The CCG now commissions talking therapy services and wellbeing services to complement the other mental health support available through your GP and mental health providers. For more information, visit www.mytalkingtherapies.com. There is also much helpful information and advice at www.mind.org.uk.