Special feature - depression
Depression is a serious yet treatable mental health condition and the earlier an individual can begin to seek help the better.
Turning Point is developing a guidance and advice tool kit that identifies a range of different treatment options which can be tailored to suit individual needs and preferences in managing issues such as depression, anxiety, self-harm and problems with alcohol and other drugs.
This is part of a pilot research program to test a guidance and advice intervention from paramedics who attend an individual for depression, anxiety, self-harm or alcohol or other drug issues. Outcomes from the pilot project will be discussed later in 2018.
Advice will include practical strategies and lifestyle options, psychological therapies (sometimes called ‘talking therapies’) and guidance on medications.
The program offers advice and guidance but emphasises the importance of always speaking to a GP or mental health professional before taking up any of these activities. Individuals are encouraged to have a read through suggestions like the following to decide which strategies you they might feel are best able to help with their depression.
The strategies below include a range of different activities that you can do on your own to improve your wellbeing. Many GPs and mental health professionals in Australia believe that these strategies and lifestyle choices are helpful in improving wellbeing.
There are many different types of relaxation training such as progressive muscle relaxation, breathing relaxation and the practice of mindfulness. These techniques aim to free a person from stress and induce a state of calm. They may be guided by a professional or done through apps or recorded instructions. Check-out some relaxation techniques below.
Progressive muscle relaxation training is a relaxation technique that helps people recognise the difference between tension and relaxation in each of the major muscle groups. People who practise muscle relaxation are able to release tension and bring their muscles into a deep state of relaxation.
Breathing relaxation technique works by paying attention to breathing, and deliberately practising slow and deep breaths. This helps to control the nervous system and encourages the body to relax. Follow the instructions below, or listen to the guided breathing relaxation (MP3).
- Sit (or lie) down and close your eyes, or let your eyes gently rest on an object in the room.
- Inhale deeply and slowly, while counting to four.
- Exhale slowly, counting to four.
- Inhale deeply and slowly again as you count to four, then hold your breath for two seconds.
- Exhale slowly, counting to four.
- Repeat inhale and exhale cycle for several minutes, and consciously relax.
- As you inhale, imagine yourself in a safe, comfortable, beautiful place. Continue to breathe as you hold the image in your mind. Feel how relaxed you are.
- When you are ready, become aware of yourself in the room once again, wriggle your fingers and toes, and slowly open your eyes
Mindfulness is a therapeutic technique, which aims to bring focus and awareness to the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Mindfulness is often practiced as a part of meditation or yoga but can be part of your everyday life. There are many apps, such as Smiling Mind, that are free to download, and help support a guided mindful meditation practice. Or to find a yoga class near you, search for one online or via the MINDBODY app. For more information on mindfulness, click here.
Massage is experienced by most as a relaxing treatment where a therapist uses physical touch, applying pressure with their hands on the muscles of the body and other soft tissues. Massage is thought to be an effective complimentary treatment for depression by relieving tension and reducing stress hormones.
Self-guided online programs
Research indicates that undertaking self-guided, online psychological therapy is effective for most people with depression, irrespective of its severity. This method of providing therapy works in similar ways to psychological therapy undertaken when you meet face-to-face with a mental health professional. Below are some programs that are free and have been developed by experts!
There are also some great toolkits designed for men, which you can find here:
Research shows that self-help books for depression that use psychological therapies have similar effects to psychological therapies provided face-to-face by mental health professionals. Self-helps books are also more effective when guided by a mental health professional. You might like to try Feeling Good by David Burns and Control Your Depression by Peter Lewinsohn.
There is some evidence to show that self-help strategies work for depression.