A serious topic – depression affects 1 million Australians in any given year, and up to 45% of Australians will suffer a mental health condition in their lifetime. Depression represents a level of sadness that is severe, prolonged, may not be triggered by an event, and interferes with day-to-day life. Specifically, diagnosis is a handful of the following in a 2-week period – depressed mood, reduced interest in activities, weight changes, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, and thoughts of self-harm or death.

We know contributing factors for depression include personality traits (such as low resilience, dependent traits, lack of self-esteem, perfectionism), family history, chronic illness, drugs or heavy alcohol intake, history of abuse or trauma, and history of other mental illness.

There is often a lag in diagnosis and treatment – Osana uses a depression screening tool for all members, to make sure we diagnose and treat every relevant person who may be affected. We can impact someone’s life significantly by doing so.

Treatment revolves around lifestyle optimisation (healthy diet, minimising alcohol, recreational drugs and other stimulants, support network and awareness of triggers and strategies to deal with triggers), psychotherapy (such as mindfulness, acceptance and commitment therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy), self-help apps (e.g. Headspace, Smiling Mind), a range of medications, and some physical therapies (shock treatment, magnetic stimulation).

Some new advances in depression management include exercise, meditation and yoga, plus current research is being undertaken to test whether mushrooms (psilocybin), Ectasy (MDMA) and ketamine (a painkiller) can help.

Persons affected by depression can find ways to reduce stress, ask for help (family, friends, health professionals) and follow treatment plans. Identifying those that may be affected (R U ok?) or struggling can go a long way to provide early support and impacting the prognosis of treatment.