Depression: A practitioner's view
As part of our stress and mental health awareness series on AccountingWEB, member Sir Digby Chicken Caesar writes about what it's like to be an accountant while coping with depression - and what those affected can do to get help.
When I reflect back on the past seven years of my career, as a sole practitioner, the overriding image is of me sat at my desk piled high with overdue work, desperately avoiding my phone which seemed to ring constantly.
Despite my personal finances teetering on the brink of oblivion, I just could not bring myself to get the work done or speak to anyone.
If anyone had been unfortunate enough to share my office with me, they might have come to the conclusion I was simply bone idle. But the simple truth is: my depression was crippling me.
And despite having suffered depression for most of my adult life, when researching my illness, I found the statistics for mental health problems in the UK surprising.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, “Mixed Anxiety and depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain, with almost 9% of people meeting the criteria for diagnosis”.
We all have our down days, not least with the cold dark evenings and the tax return season looming large.
Many of us will bound about the term “depressing” when we discuss the upcoming January gloom, however how many of us are truly aware of what depression really is? It’s actually pretty easy to identify in ourselves, with three core symptoms:
- Low mood
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Lack of interest or enjoyment in life
To be diagnosed with depression, at least two of the three core symptoms would have been experienced for most of the day, nearly every day for at least two weeks.
They can be accompanied by excessive feelings of worthlessness and guilt, hopelessness, morbid and suicidal thoughts and weight gain or weight loss.
Spotting depression in others is considerably more difficult.
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Some sufferers will naturally reach out to those closest to them for support and otherswill go to extraordinary measures to conceal the condition understandably so, as despite a recent high profile media campaign, mental health is still perceived to be heavily stigmatized.
Perhaps more so by the sufferer, than by the rest of society. There is often a sense of 'what is wrong with me?' particularly where there seems to be no rational cause for depression.
There are some common signs to look for that might indicate someone close to you is suffering depression, such as difficulty concentrating, seeming tired or listless much of the time, extreme weight gain or loss, extreme irritability or aggressive behaviour which might have previously seemed out of character.
I’m not suggesting in any way that you jump in and confront anyone you suspect may be experiencing depression, particularly as they may be going to extreme lengths to conceal this from the rest of the world.
The best approach is to be silently supportive and if this is a colleague ensuring that they are not under excessive pressure in terms of workload and responsibility in the same way you would any other colleague.
One of the key characteristics of anxiety and depression can be overwhelming self loathing and lack of self worth so stacks of encouragement and simply helping them feel others are interested how they are, can be a real boost for their sense of self worth.
For me, the turning point came when I started to view my depression as a disease.
I didn’t choose to suffer this affliction, nor did I do anything to trigger or exacerbate it. Once I had accepted this simple point, I stopped blaming, hating and berating myself. It’s taken a long time, but I can now reflect on how my conditioned responses to anything negative can set me on a downward spiral.
Essential to this change in mindset was a website that completely changed the way I think. Moodgym is an interactive website created by the staff at the Centre for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University. It is a completely free program of cognitive behavioural therapy that gives depression sufferers the tools to cope with and overcome the negative effects of depressive thinking.
For sufferers of depression, it’s important that they realise you are not alone. There is lots of help available and by far the best place to start is with a GP.
I have been incredibly impressed with the attitude and support provided by all of the GPs - yes, I have spoken to all of them over the course of the past few years - at my local practice. I believe that the NHS has taken great pains, from the doctor’s perspective at least, to recognise depression for the illness that it is, and treat sufferers with support, kindness and understanding. I sincerely hope that this is the experience for everyone seeking help for depression. I recommend if it is not, that you find a better doctor.
Talk to Someone:
- Samaritans - If you need to talk to someone in complete confidence call 08457 90 90 90 (UK) 24 hours a day.
- The Mind Infoline - If you have any questions about mental health problems or where to get help call 0300 123 3393 or email [email protected].