Really . . . I’m fine . . .

Depression. Oh no, I hear you say! Karen, give us a break. Where is your page of flirty trends to lift our hearts?!

Depression. Oh no, I hear you say! Karen, give us a break. Where is your page of flirty trends to lift our hearts?!

Unfortunately, even in the last few months I have come across some students that are not only lacking in self confidence but are obviously suffering from depression. It is a difficult age at the best of times with the pressure of exams, lack of prospects, hormones, low self image and strained social circumstances. But, I see the strain on some faces of those that are not coping well.

It doesn’t help that the leader of our country is out there spewing to the world that we are to blame and then telling us that it’s not really our fault. Will someone with half a brain please show us some inspiring leadership…

Depressing isn’t it? No-one wants to know apparently. Unless, that is, it is affecting one of your loved ones, or, God forbid, you! I honestly can’t approach a room of students who need a confidence boost and not include their emotional and psychological well being too. We spend so much time and effort on our outward selves and so often neglect what’s going on inside. We are a holistic package. Their needs to be balance too.

Pulling together with make-up and fashion will get you through the day and bolster your confidence but it’s important to get cracking on the heart of yourself to discover the real you.

It is refreshing when you hear someone’s story of their own experience of depression. Especially, when it is an A-list Hollywood star like Brad Pitt. You always get the impression he has led a charmed life. It would be easy to think of him romantically as the tortured artist who needed to get in touch with his dark side for artistic reasons. But, no, he just honestly admitted that he went through a dark phase when he could not handle the trappings of the celebrity life. He also admitted it wasn’t helped by his use of Marijuana which brought him further into his depression. He said he got through it though when he realised things were not so bad on a trip to the poorest part of Morocco. A bit of perspective may have helped him. It’s great to see that it is possible to recover from depression and he has to be commended for opening up and squashing the stigma that can sometimes be worse than the illness.

Sadly there are the cases of those who did not pull through it like the talented Heath Ledger. A reminder that there is no shame in getting help before your situation gets desperate.Something that poor Demi Moore has realised now that she has set about getting better.

Imagine your darkest day.... the shock passing of a loved one, the day your boss tells you that he can’t afford you, the moment your spouse tells you they want a separation. If you have experienced anything like this then you may know something of heartache and despair - and I mean your body actually plunging into symptoms you have no control over. Actual pains in your chest, nausea, exhaustion, fuzzy head. It’s a very dark place. One that is quite shocking and probably unfamiliar. This is seriously no place for simply pulling yourself together. You may even think to yourself that this is the end and really... how could anything get better. But, then, you work through it and move on.

Now....imagine living a normal life with no drama and heartache and still feeling like this. Scary, isn’t it? Some depression is exactly this. When your brain decides that, what the heck, I know you have a date with George Clooney and you look like Cameron Diaz but I am going to fill you with such a dark spirit that you will be filled with self doubt, self loathing, extreme negativity and numb blackness that you may never even make it past today let alone your front door.

The only thing I would imagine you could compare it to is to picture a severe premenstrual day with head numbing sinuses when the world is like a blur around you.

What would you do? Honestly. Well, I think I would hit the bed, switch off the phone and sleep it off.

Would I advertise that I’ve had a bad day.? Are you mental?!!

Imagine you had your leg amputated. Would you keep it from everyone you know in case they judged you? Of course not. Then why are we so backward when it comes to being forward about the health of our brain?

We may sometimes be cynical of the American culture of just getting counselling/treatment, but at least it is accepted there. After all this time, I am still shocked at the stigma attached to well... everything that is not just physically obvious. Are we all that perfect that we can make general judgements.

The good thing though, is that there is plenty of positive and professional help and advice out there for you.

There are many levels and types of mental health problems from mild to severe and it can prove disabling in some cases. It is possible to minimise the impact of depression by accessing information and support and finding ways to manage the condition.

Depression has a number of possible causes. For some, it is the result of a traumatic event. In other situations, the person may have an inherent tendency towards depression, and such genetic factors can be key in the case of bipolar disorder.

Post- natal depression can be treated very effectively so the sooner it is diagnosed the better. The actress Brooke Shields was very open about suffering and recovering from this which must have been a relief to lots of women to hear.

The thing to remember is that this is not just something that happens to a few. Depression affects 400,000 people in Ireland at any one time and up to 10 per cent of teenagers at any time. That’s quite a lot of us.

Firstly, you need to be direct. It doesn’t matter if your gp knows. If you let yourself fall into the cover up mode you will lose your focus. A diagnosis is essential to recovery.

For the person, especially if it is you. You need to talk. You will be surprised at how much information your loved ones will tolerate on your behalf. Trying to make everything look perfect while you paddle furiously under the surface?  Seriously, don’t bother, it matters less than you think.

The reality is that this may truly be just a blip. Everyone (yep, everyone) has them. It’s just a matter of training yourself how to cope with them and learning how to move on.

In some cases medication may help but in other cases a change of lifestyle can help. Such as regular exercise, avoiding caffeine and alcohol and better sleep habits and diet.

Obviously, you are not going to do a mission impossible on it and change your identity. But, if you can at least admit to yourself that some days you don’t cope so well then you can at least start to move forward. Then you can look forward to feeling more colourful on the inside too.

For more information take a look at www.Aware.ie and www.MentalHealthIreland.ie