Named after Juno, the goddess of marriage, June is the month where we can enjoy aperitifs in the garden, fire up the barbeque and turn our attention to everything and anything outdoorsy.
June is the sixth month of the year and has the longest number of daylight hours – a whopping sixteen compared with around eight for those dark winter months. We can now pretend that we are living in the Med and not under grey British skies.
Speaking of grey skies, as a population we are prone to the effects of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – being deprived of sunshine here in the UK. Lack of sunshine causes Vitamin D deficiency, which can lead to low mood, anxiety and depression, hence why SAD is often known as winter depression. SAD is a mood disorder subset in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year can experience depressive symptoms at the same time each year, most commonly during the winter months.
However, while most of us will feel our moods lift as the lighter, longer days of June are upon us, and we start to enjoy the feel good factors linked with the warmer weather and start of summer, this year officially beginning on June 21st, spare a thought for those, who despite the customary blue sky and sunshine we associate with this time of year, continue to feel despondent and low in mood.
At a time when most of us feel excited and hopeful at the prospect of the holiday season, and can adopting a more relaxed attitude to life, 1 in 5 of us will be suffering with depression. While symptoms are similar to SAD, they often last for longer and are more intense. These include, low mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-esteem, disturbed sleep and/or appetite, low energy and poor concentration. At times, it may feel impossible to see a way out of this all-consuming blackness, and may even result in thoughts of self-harm and suicide.
So why do people get depressed?
Sometimes there may be an obvious reason, other times, not. For instance a relationship breakdown, or a bereavement, or loss of a family pet can lead to depression. But at other times it may not be quite as clear. Either way, these feelings can become so overwhelming and at times make an individual feel alone and desperate.
So who gets depression?
Depression is a mental illness and does not discriminate. Anyone can get it but there are several risk factors that increase our chances. For instance, women are twice as likely than men to suffer with depression, people who face long-term illness, people facing severe or multiple stresses and those feeling emotionally isolated. The latter being considered one of the most important issues that determine whether or not we will develop depressive illness when faced with the stresses of life. At an emotional level, we all need someone to talk to about the practicalities and emotions in our everyday lives. For those who do not have this outlet, research has repeatedly shown an increased risk of acquiring depressive illness.
So how do I know if I am depressed?
You may not realise how depressed you are because it has come on so gradually. You may try to struggle on and cope by keeping busy. This can make you even more stressed and exhausted. You may also notice physical pains, such as constant headaches or sleeplessness. Sometimes these physical symptoms can be the first sign of a depression.
So what can I do to help myself?
- Tell someone how you feel.
- Make an appointment with your GP. They will be able to best advise you on the options available to you. They may suggest a combination of counselling and/or antidepressants depending on the severity of your depression.
- Try to keep active. Even just going for a walk regularly can help your mood and sleep pattern. Doing things can help to take you mind off depressive thoughts.
- Make sure you eat well.
- Be careful with alcohol as it makes depression worse.
- Try not to get worried if you can’t sleep, but do something relaxing in bed such as reading, watching TV or listening to the radio.
- If you think you know what is causing your depression, it can help to write down the problem and then think of the things you could do to tackle it. Pick the best actions and see if they work.
How can I help someone who is depressed?
- Listen to them, but try not to judge.
- Don’t offer advice unless they ask for it, but if you can see the problem that is behind the depression, you could work with the person to find a solution.
- Spending time just listening to their problems and encouraging them to keep going with activities in their routine is helpful.
- However you feel they are getting worse, encourage them to visit their doctor and seek professional help.
Try to keep hopeful. If may be of comfort to know that you are not alone, this is a very common experience and you will come through it, probably stronger and more able to cope than before. Always keep in mind there is help available, it just takes a little courage to make that first step.
Health and Well-being Expert,