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Coping with depression

Depression is a term that is used widely, sometimes with a precise meaning and sometimes loosely. It is used:

  • by medical people as a diagnosis of a treatable illness for which medication may be prescribed
  • by counsellors and psychotherapists as an indication of a client's way of experiencing in response to events and circumstances in their life
  • by people in general as a way of pointing to how withdrawn a person may appear to be.

It is part of life to feel fed up sometimes, but these feelings are usually short lived and manageable. However, these feelings can become severe and begin to impact on a person's ability to function, making life feel like a struggle. Depression can affect a person's ability to work, study, socialise and develop relationships. Depression affects many people - it is estimated that one in six people will be depressed at some time in their lives - yet it can feel like a lonely and isolated experience.

Understanding Depression

Sometimes depression is a reaction to a life event, such as the end of a relationship, bereavement (see Coping with Bereavement) or job loss. It is normal to experience a period of sadness after such events, but sometimes this sadness is prolonged, and may even affect someone more than the actual event that initially sparked the depression.

Depression is not always caused by an event and can appear to come from nowhere. Someone may appear to others to have everything going for them and yet still experience a bout of depression. Depression is usually thought to be characterised by feelings of sadness. However for some people it can involve a complete numbness of all feelings.

The duration and severity of depression varies, for some it may last weeks or months and for others it will last a year or more. For many people, feelings of depression will subside, however some will need to seek support. It can be difficult to seek assistance since some people blame themselves for the way they are feeling and try to cope alone. However, research shows that people who seek help are likely to overcome depression quicker than those who try to cope alone.


Helping yourself

There are some things that you can try and do yourself to lift your mood, however, it is not always possible to do this alone and you may need to approach someone for support:

  • Spend time with people rather than avoiding company. Isolation can increase feelings of depression. Think about joining a society or joining in on Student Union Events. We also have Global Friendship Evenings every Wednesday from 7pm. 
  • Look after yourself. Regular exercise has been shown by research to help lift depression.
  • Sign up to Silvercloud and work through the module on 'Space from Depression'  or sign up to and use Togetherall's course on 'Managing Depression'
  • The University Student Counselling Service offers confidential, non-judgmental counselling. Talking to someone who is not involved in your life can help you to recognise patterns of behaviour and find your strengths. Submit a referral form here. 
  • It can be tempting to try and find release by over using drugs, alcohol and tobacco. This may provide a temporary solution, but in the long term can bring its own problems by causing depression.
  • Remember that depression is not a sign of weakness. Many of us will experience it at sometime in our lives and with time it will go.
  • If you have someone you feel comfortable talking to, tell them about it. They will probably want to be given the opportunity to help and listen.
  • There are also sources of support on the telephone and on the web - if you would prefer to speak to someone in that way. You can call, text, email or webchat with StudentSpace for 24/7 free confidential support. 
  • Your GP may be able to help by possibly referring you to counselling or other support services or prescribing anti-depressants.

Helping Others

You may not have depression yourself, but may be concerned about someone you care about or live with. If you have read this information and think that some of the symptoms apply to someone you know, then it may be that they are depressed. Below are some of the things that you could think about doing to help.

  • Try not to be judgmental, or to assume you know how they are feeling. They are more likely to open up if they feel that they are being listened to without judgement.
  • Try and encourage them to do the things that they did prior to having depression.
  • Persist - a depressed person may take out their feelings on those closest to them. It can be hard to care for someone if they do not appear to value your friendship. However, your friend may feel that they are not worthy of your friendship and try to push you away. Try not to be put off by this.
  • Try to signpost your friend to appropriate support, you can read about this in the 'helping yourself' section above. 
  • It can be easy when trying to support someone to forget about yourself and your own mental wellbeing. Take some time to deal with your own emotions. It is not selfish to sometimes make yourself a priority.
  • You may need to seek support yourself - there is only so much you can do. If you are worried about another student, or do not feel you are coping well with supporting a peer, please get in touch. Contact us at wellbeing@sunderland.ac.uk or call at 0191 515 2933.
  • Should your friend or relative need urgent assistance you, or the student, can contact the CRISIS team on 0303 123 1145 (24 hours). In an emergency please call 999.   

Charlie Waller Memorial Trust

Penny Aspinall from the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust has created a wonderful video on how to be kinder to yourself. The CWMT aims to support students who may be struggling with depression or poor mental health.

Being Kind to yourself PA 18052020 from CWMT on Vimeo.

Visit the students against depression website, created by the CWMT, to read more about mental health and find advice on dealing with depression, stress, anxiety and many other topics. 

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