Depression isn’t just feeling blue for a few days. We all have periods where we just don’t feel like ourselves, and in those instances, we need to be mindful of our mental health; however, this is not what is meant by depression.
How is depression different? The symptoms last consistently for at least two weeks or more and impair a person’s ability to function over time. Treatment, including counseling, cognitive behavioural therapy and/or medication is needed.
The Physical Signs:
- Changes in sleep patterns, either sleeping too much or not sleeping enough
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate
The Thinking and Feeling Signs:
- Irritable or sad mood for most of the day, nearly every day for at least two weeks
- Decreased interest or pleasure in work, hobbies or activities usually enjoyed
- Feelings of inappropriate and excessive guilt or worthlessness
- Thoughts of suicide (always seek help if you or a loved one is experiencing thoughts of suicide or self harm)
You can learn even more about the signs & symptoms of mood disorders like depression from Mood Disorders Canada. read more
What makes an anxiety disorder different from the anxiety we all feel sometimes is that the feelings don’t go away and everyday situations like work or school cause elevated stress or even panic.
There are different types of anxiety disorders. Some examples follow:
Different kinds of anxiety disorders
Excessive anxiety in a variety of situations experienced over a period of six months or more.
Social anxiety disorder
Fear, anxiety, or avoidance of particular social situations which is persistent, interferes with day to day functioning and role responsibilities and causes distress for the person.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive, intrusive and unwanted thoughts paired with repetitive, compulsive behaviours to prevent a dreaded event from occurring or to avoid anxiety.
Eating disorders most commonly begin in adolescence, but can affect anyone—females, males, and people of different cultures—at any age. The unhealthy eating habits that characterize eating disorders are often coping mechanisms a person develops to try and deal with other problems.
These disorders can have serious physical complications including digestive problems, weakening of bones, and heart and kidney damage. In treating eating disorders, both the physical and psychological symptoms need to be addressed. With early treatment and support, many individuals recover and live healthy lives.
Signs that may indicate an eating disorder:
- Intense fear of weight gain
- Have feelings of ineffectiveness and low self-esteem
- Guilt or shame about eating
- Strict avoidance of “fattening” foods
- Feeling fat when not “overweight”
- Unusual eating patterns
- Irregular or stopped periods
- Noticeable weight loss
- Frequent weight fluctuation
- Denial of the dangers of low weight
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS IN YOUTH
70% of individuals who experience mental illness say the signs and symptoms began during their youth.
Talking to our youth, students, children and members of our community, about mental illness and how it impacts their lives (or their friends and loved ones) can have a huge impact in the conversation on mental health, inspiring future generations to break down barriers to talking about mental illness.
Youth are impacted by mental illness, and often do not get the help they need. Emerging mental health problems and mental illness may be confused with adolescent hormones. Watch for changes in behaviour or mood that persist over time. These changes will vary from teen to teen, depending on what they are experiencing in their lives. Some families ask themselves “is this a sign of mental illness or just adolescence?” Some signs to watch for:
- A drop in grades at school
- Refusal to go to school or increased sick days
- Isolation from family and peers
- Changes in eating, sleeping, activity levels that persist
- Self harm: if you suspect your son or daughter, their a classmate or a friend is harming themselves or may harm themselves, get help.
Risk of suicide in youth
- Suicide is among the leading causes of death in Canadian 15 – 24 years old, second only to accidents.
- Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868) is Canada’s only free, national, bilingual, confidential and anonymous 24-hour telephone and online counseling service
Youth are talking here and sharing their experiences: www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/mhcc-youth-council
Growing old doesn’t mean you are immune to mental illness. Rates of mental illness increase with age. It also doesn’t mean because a person is elderly, they can’t be helped (a common stigma for seniors experiencing mental illness). They can.
- Seniors experience dementia and Alzheimer’s disease but experience other mental illnesses as well, especially depression and anxiety.
- Mental illnesses, such as anxiety or depression, diagnosed earlier in life do not “go away” as a patient ages and can reoccur over a person’s life.
- Depression among seniors is sometimes misunderstood to be early dementia.
- Many seniors live alone and the chance of a senior living in isolation is higher than the average population. Risk of addiction increases when individuals live in isolation without consistent support systems.
You can learn more about the mental health issues facing seniors from the Mental Health Commission of Canada. read more
WOMEN: Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is a mental illness experienced by 10 – 15% of new mothers in the days and weeks following labor and delivery. Some people call it the “baby blues” but baby blues pass after 2 weeks. Unlike normal hormonal adjustments following a pregnancy, postpartum depression exists over a prolonged period of time and has an onset within the first 2 weeks after a woman gives birth.
Signs of Postpartum Depression
- Reduced energy
- Uncontrollable sadness
- Feeling lost or helpless
- Wanting to be alone (for partners: understand wanting to be alone isn’t about you or the baby, but the postpartum issue itself)
Signs of Postpartum Psychosis
Postpartum psychosis is rare—it occurs in 1 to 4 out of every 1,000 births.
The potential for this form of postpartum illness is higher if existing, pre-diagnosed mental illness exists during birth; mental health screening during pregnancy may be an option. Ask your health care team for help. Symptoms include:
- Thoughts of hurting yourself
- Thoughts of hurting the baby
- Little interest in the baby
More moms who’ve experienced postpartum depression are talking about their experiences, and you can read more:
There’s a lot more to learn about postpartum depression from the Canadian Mental Health Association. read more
While mental illnesses impact men and women of all ages, some men find it more difficult to seek help.
Let’s get the conversation going for men in our communities and make it okay to talk about depression and other mental illnesses: 4 out of 5 suicides among young people in Canada are committed by men, despite men’s lower reported rates of depression.
We don’t want to put people in boxes but researchers (and men themselves) say they may not talk about the problem as much as women but it is there.
Men with depression can have increased irritability or anger, making it harder to recognize.
From the guys who brought you Movember, now you can hear about men’s mental health in their own words. Learn more
Canada’s Aboriginal peoples, especially youth, experience addiction and mental illness at higher rates than other Canadian communities. There are high levels of social distress in many Aboriginal communities and suicide rates are higher in these communities than other parts of the country.
You can learn more the mental illness and addiction issues facing Aboriginal people and communities from the Mental Health Commission of Canada and the Network for Aboriginal Mental Health Research.