(originally posted on 10/10/2017)
So today is world mental health day and it is estimated that there are 300 million people globally suffering with depression, and more than 260 million people suffering from anxiety (1).
The old ‘1 in 4’ experience mental health concerns within their life is, in my view, very conservative. Especially as 1 in 5 people are reported to experience suicidal thoughts (2).
I understand why these statistics are created as they are intended to normalise mental health issues so that there is, rightly, no shame in experiencing challenges and thus seeking support if and when required.
From my point of view, and I don’t have evidence for this, yet I believe that the way mental health issues are framed within business and life, there is still a stigma surrounding them and therefore some people still experience shame and will not speak up.
I truly believe the 1 in 4 is highly conservative. I would anticipate that, at at least one point during their life, everyone will experience some form of anxiety, and potentially the symptoms of depression. These are very human experiences that become problematic in life when they persevere.
There is research at present into the causal factors of the symptoms of depression and it has been suggested that the presence of suicidality within people with major depressive disorder (MDD) have inflammatory markers, suggesting that the inflammation rather than the MDD may not be causing the suicidal thoughts (3). This ties in with the increasing evidence that people with depression have neuroinflammation leading some to think that depression may, in fact, be an inflammatory disorder and thus the current treatment pathways are ineffective (4, 5).
Are there benefits of this potential revelation? Yes!
It means you can make some changes that could significantly improve the symptoms of depression.
- Exercise 2-4 times a week. It has been shown that exercise reduces the symptoms of depression more than things like meditation and relaxation, and definitely more than not exercising or doing nothing (6)
- Eat a Mediterranean style diet. It has been shown that a med-style diet consisting of very few/no processed foods, oily fish, olive oil, red wine (in moderation), dark chocolate (over 70%), low sugars, and a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, increases the B vitamins and omega oils and contributes to a reduced risk of depression (7, 8). A wonderful side-effect of eating this way is you generally experience some weight loss too which can make you feel more self-confident.
- Sleep! Sleep is another factor in mood and psychological resilience (9). It has been estimated that 90% of those experiencing symptoms of depression, sleep is a problem (10) and therefore improving your sleep hygiene could make significant improvements to the symptoms of depression. Simple changes such as having a note pad next to your bed to put your thoughts onto paper before going to sleep, rather than ruminating on them for hours on end – you can deal with them in the morning! Switching off electronic devices an hour before bed and reading a book instead. Making sure your bedroom isn’t too hot. These simple changes can make a big difference.
- Relax. A variety of studies have shown how beneficial relaxation is in improving the symptoms of both depression and anxiety. It is a skill that must be learned, and often the harder you try, the harder it is to do. Yet by mastering this skill you can help yourself reduce symptoms of depression (11, 12).
There is no shame in experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, or any other mental health condition. If the symptoms persist then take action and seek support.