The importance of discussing depression and disability

Mental health conditions can be debilitating. Depression is one illness that does not discriminate.

“My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on the things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit as well as physically,” Professor Stephen Hawking.

Disabilities come in all shapes and sizes – and not all are visible. One illness that never discriminates between rich or poor, sexual orientation, religion, weight, height, ethnicity and everything else is depression.

Many people may not realise that depression, or any mental illness, can be classed as a disability. Under the Equality Act 2010, a mental condition is considered a disability if it has a long-term effect on daily life. Depression is the most common mental health problem across the world and its symptoms can be debilitating.

DARK CLOUD

A visual representation of depression is of a dark cloud consuming the joy and energy from your life. Turning simple tasks of getting out of bed or going for a shower into a seemingly impossible mountain to climb, it is no surprise depression can stop life in its tracks.

“Depression, mental health and disability are quite interlinked,” explains counsellor Martin Rigby. “Having a disability whether physically, sensory or intellectual can cause depression and other mental health issues because of a variety of reasons including: stigma, discrimination, hate crime or the process of adjusting to a new disability.”

It’s #InternationalDayofHappiness. It's often said that it’s better to give than to receive, but did you know that this is actually backed up by research? While many of us feel too stressed and busy to worry about helping others, or say we’ll focus on doing good deeds when we have more ‘spare time’, evidence shows that helping others is actually beneficial for your own mental health and wellbeing. It can help reduce stress, improve your emotional wellbeing and even benefit your physical health. As part of our work to help the nation lead mentally healthy lives, we have produced a pocket guide to show the positive impact that helping others can have on your own mental health, including some tips and suggestions to help you get started and a diary to keep track of how you’re getting on. So just take a few minutes, head to our website (link in bio), have a read of our ‘Doing good does you good’ pocket guide, download our 50 random acts of kindness and get spreading joy today. #mentalhealth #mentalhealthuk #mentalhealthmatters #internationaldayofhappiness #actsofkindness #kindness #happy #smile #laugh #love #selfcare #mentalhealthawareness #mentalhealthfoundation

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There are many factors in daily life that can cause depression. Many become depressed due to a combination of different things, others may be living their best life and become depressed for no rhyme or reason. Despite the increased discussions taking place around depression and mental health, there is one group that has a stiff upper lip when it comes to talking about depression.

BRAVE FACE

Men are known for pushing their emotions to the side meaning the male population are harder to diagnose with mental health conditions; they are more likely to suffer in silence.

Across the UK, approximately one in four people will experience a mental health problem in any given year and figures show that self-harm or suicidal thoughts are increasing. It is harrowing that depression, or similar mental health problems, are on the rise but more tragically is the fact that more men are suffering in silence.

According to the Counselling Directory – providing contact information for professional counsellors across the UK – suicide is the biggest cause of death in men under the age of 35. Four in five suicides in the UK are by men and this could be due to the continued stigma to put a brave face on any situation – including acquiring a disability.

Reasons like this are why we do Mental Health Awareness Week. Two days to go #MHAW17

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COPING SKILLS

Born without sight in his right eye, Martin’s vision deteriorated in his late teens whilst he was sitting his A Levels. Having always attended specialist schools for blind and partially sighted students, when he was left without that support, the change was one that was accepted and one he “just got on with”. It wasn’t until later in life that Martin faced his own challenges.

“I found it hard when I went to university. I thought because I had been to boarding school I was quite independent and I would be able to cope with the transition. When my parents dropped me off the first time I was quite upset. I felt like I had gone from quite a sheltered environment into a goldfish bowl,” Martin remembers. “At my school, we all had a visual impairment and we were in the same boat and then I had to adjust to a very diverse place and learn about making friends.”

When the dark cloud becomes too much to handle it can seem like there is no way out. Counselling is just one way to discover coping methods that can put your mind back in a more positive space, or simply allow you to focus on a task to pass the time in a healthy manner.

Martin threw himself into his studies as this was where he found confidence, but he found it was isolating. Turning to counselling as a patient Martin found the sessions life changing, bringing him the strength to leave a teaching placement where he felt pressured and misunderstood to gain counselling qualifications to  help others. Martin attended a counselling session that his life changed direction – due to the supportive and non-judgemental approach that counselling provides. Getting a sense of self back is the main objective for counselling.

“I like to ask my client what they want or need. Quite often people with mental health issues or disabilities don’t get asked what they want, they may feel medicalised and feel like a number. If they have just acquired a disability things may be so intense at that moment they may need medication, practical support before counselling can happen,” explains Martin.  “You are not alone. There is help and support out there. I appreciate how difficult it is taking that step for people to get help and support, but it is out there. You can work through things and you can make changes – there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

KNOW THE SIGNS

Just like any other illness, depression has many signs and symptoms including:

FEELINGS

Restless, agitated or irritable

Down, upset and/or tearful

Empty and numb

Isolated and unable to relate to others

No self-confidence or self-esteem

Finding no pleasure in life or the things you used to

BEHAVIOUR

Avoiding social events and activities you once enjoyed

Using more tobacco, alcohol or drugs than usual

Self-harming or suicidal behaviour

Difficulty sleeping or even sleeping too much

Loss of appetite leading to weight loss, or eating too much and gaining weight

Finding it difficult to speak or think clearly

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