Looking after your mental health
Feeling down sometimes is common, but knowing when it's time to seek help can be difficult to know, especially when you're in it. See how to recognise the signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety, and where you can access help.
Who does it affect?
Depression affects around one million Australians each year, while over two million have anxiety*. If you frequently or regularly exhibit the most common signs of depression or anxiety, you may need to seek professional help.
What are depression and anxiety?
Beyond Blue explains that while everyone can feel sad or low from time to time, some people experience these feelings intensely, and for long periods of time, perhaps for no apparent reason. Depression may develop after a series or combination of stressful, life-changing events, such as a death in the family, relationship issues, long-term unemployment or prolonged work stress. For people who are more at risk due to previous bad experiences or personal factors such as family history, serious illness or substance use, an event such as job loss can trigger depression.
You may be experiencing anxiety if you frequently or persistently feel nervous, fearful, apprehensive or worried without any reason, and your day-to-day functioning is affected. According to Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), feelings of anxiety are considered a problem when the reaction that occurs is out of proportion to what could normally be expected.
Signs and symptoms
If you’ve felt sad, down or miserable, have little or no interest in socialising or have lost pleasure in activities you usually enjoy, you may be depressed. Additional signs include relying on alcohol or drugs, being unable to complete or even begin activities or projects, or feeling overwhelmed, irritable, unhappy, indecisive and worthless. You may also experience physical symptoms, such as constant tiredness, sleep issues and loss or change of appetite. It’s important to remember that everyone can experience these symptoms at some time; it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re depressed. And not everyone who is depressed exhibits these symptoms.
Sufferers of anxiety may experience panic attacks, a racing heart, tight chest, shortness of breath, sweating, trembling and restlessness. They may also feel a sense of impending danger or doom and show behavioural symptoms such as avoiding situations that create anxiety.
If you suspect that you may be experiencing anxiety or depression, complete Beyond Blue’s K10 checklist, which will help measure whether you have been affected by mental health issues during the past four weeks. The higher your score, the more likely it is that you may need to seek help and support. The k10 checklist is confidential, and depending on the score you’ll be provided with information, contacts and help to take the next step towards improving your mental health.
Where to seek help
You’re not alone when it comes to treating depression and anxiety. And it’s important to seek help early, to try and avoid worsening of symptoms. A GP can make an initial assessment and then suggest or refer you to the appropriate mental health expert to determine the best course of treatment, which may include medical treatments such as antidepressants and/or psychological treatments, also known as talking therapies. But if you need urgent or immediate support, contact one of the services listed below.
Steps you can take
While treatment depends on the type and severity of the depression, lifestyle factors can assist recovery and help to manage symptoms of depression and anxiety. Reducing stress and creating a healthy and balanced routine can be beneficial. This could include regular exercise, eating well, getting regular sleep and avoiding stimulants such as alcohol.
Making time for activities you enjoy is also important: research has shown that getting outside into the garden can directly improve wellbeing. Growing your own fruit and vegetables can also help support your healthy eating habits – and digging in the garden, planting and weeding or mowing the lawn is a wonderful way to build up a sweat. Similarly, starting a new DIY project around your home can provide a goal to aim for, while completion of it can help to improve self-esteem and feelings of achievement.
Where to access help
1300 22 4636 (24 hours)
13 11 14 (24 hours)
Men’s Line Australia
1300 78 99 78 (24 hours)
Suicide Call Back Service
1300 659 467 (24 hours)
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