People now more open about their depression


PEOPLE SUFFERING from depression have become much more open about their condition, according to a new survey.

Six out of 10 people who have personally experienced depression tell friends or family members about their problem compared with one in 10 people last year, according to the Lundbeck Mental Health Barometer, launched today.

However, the same survey found that seven out of 10 people believe there is a social stigma attached to depression and that it is difficult to talk to a doctor or health professional about it.

Doctors themselves need to be more open about depression, according to Dr Eamonn Shanahan, GP in Farranfore, Co Kerry commenting on the survey.

“We need to assure people that anxiety and depression are as common – in fact more common – as asthma and high blood pressure and that they are just other problems that need to be dealt with in GP practice,” he said. But he acknowledged that busy surgeries could make it more difficult for patients to admit to suffering from a mental health problem.

“Patients may have to seek out doctors who are quieter. And doctors have to be aware that the patient may present with a physical complaint first – palpitations, headaches, upset stomachs and that when no underlying physical problem is found, the doctor can then ask the patients questions about their appetite, sleep patterns, concentration, etc. This may take more than one visit.”

The Lundbeck Mental Health Barometer also revealed that those aged 50-64 are most likely to have either personal (8 per cent) or familial experience (19 per cent) of depression.

Those in the 25-34 year old bracket also showed relatively high rates of either personal (6 per cent) or familial experience (20 per cent) of depression.

The survey found mixed views on who is most likely to suffer from depression. One in three people believed that the unemployed were the most likely to experience depression.

However, those who personally suffer from depression believe it is most common among young people, followed by the unemployed.

Last year, the same survey found that most people thought young people were the most likely group to be depressed in Irish society while those who personally suffered from depression thought that older people were most likely to be depressed.

So with such fickle public opinion, what do the experts think? “Depression can affect anyone at any time so it is vital that those experiencing symptoms talk to a healthcare professional,” said Dr Shanahan.

Symptoms of depression include feeling unhappy most of the time, a loss of interest in life, feeling anxious, agitated or irritable, feeling guilty, changes to sleeping patterns, changes in appetite, feeling tired a lot of the time or having low energy levels. “It’s important that doctors look at the underlying cause of the depression and what is happening in the person’s life.

“In the majority of cases, once the problem is admitted, it can be treated in general practice with cognitive behavioural therapy and/or medication if necessary,” he said.

It is estimated that 400,000 people suffer from depression in Ireland. If you suffer from depression, talk to a healthcare professional or make contact with a support group such as Aware on 1890 303 302.