Protecting my family from getting depressive illness


According to World Health Organisation research, and other research in recent years, depression is a huge epidemic all over the world, even if not currently given a great deal of public attention, or not diagnosed by doctors.  It is expected that twenty per cent of women and ten per cent of men will get depressive illness at least once in their lifetimes. By the year 2020, the World Health Organisation estimates that depression will be the second most common illness affecting society, when measuring the impact of illness on society. Depression is the main cause of suicide all over the world.


In an effort to protect your family members from getting depressive illness, it is useful if you understand the fundamental situation that depression occurs when the stresses of life exceed our ability to cope.  Accordingly, anything that can be done to reduce these stresses, and anything that can be done to increase our abilities to cope, will lessen the risk of getting depressive illness in our journey through life.


Reducing stress

Facing challenges is a normal part of living.  However, increasing the number of challenges, and increasing the amount of time in which one is faced with challenges, all put extra strain on our chemistry.  It may therefore be necessary to remind someone in your family that he or she is working excessively long hours, or is taking on too many commitments, or is obviously too time pressured (so that they are continuously under pressure to rush).


Reducing anxiety

Anxiety is a breeding ground for depressive illness, and is the first stage along the pathway into depressive illness.  If you, or a member of your family, are always uptight / anxious / nervous / tense, it will lessen the risk of developing depressive illness if you or your family members learn relaxation techniques.  These range from simple techniques of muscle relaxation, such as tightening then relaxing every muscle group in your body progressively, and doing this a number of times per day, to simply sitting and forcing yourself to relax for ten seconds multiple times throughout the day.  Other useful relaxation techniques include yoga, transcendental meditation (TM), and tai chi. You can be shown the technique of self hypnosis, which for many people is a very effective form of relaxation.


Guaranteeing mutual emotional support

This is one of the most dramatically effective techniques in preventing depression.  When faced with stress, those who are most resistant to the effects of stress are those who have a close relationship with partner, family and / or friends, so that they know they are not alone in dealing with the negative aspects of life.

If you reflect on what strengthens a relationship when two people initially meet each other, it is the fact that they spend time alone together talking, and spend time sharing enjoyable activities together.  It is very useful, both for the quality of your relationship and for protection against stress, to ensure the two of you spend 20 minutes or half an hour every day or every second day simply talking to each other, with the TV switched off, nobody else around, and no distractions allowed.  Similarly, it is very useful if the two of you go out socially on a regular basis to something you enjoy, but ensuring you do it without other people accompanying you, to remind yourselves you can continue to have enjoyable times simply being together.


Extra support at times of stress

It has also been shown that the risk of developing depressive illness when faced with a major stress is markedly lessened if the affected person is offered intense extra support from those around them, particularly from his or her partner.  This may take the form of repeated reassurances to the person involved about their care and support, practical assistance, or ensuring you spend significantly extra amounts of time with the person affected until the stress has subsided in its impact.


Teaching optimism

It is believed that those who take a pessimistic view of life, and see themselves as unfair victims of life, are more liable to get depressive illness.  From childhood onwards ideally, it is very useful to encourage family members to see problems as something to be dealt with, and something that can indeed be dealt with successfully and effectively.  Encouragement to accept that negatives have happened, and that the immediate task is to find the various options available in dealing with that negative, are very useful strategies to reduce the risk of depressive illness. Regretting that something has happened, or seeing the event as proof that life is unfair and the person is a victim of life will increase the risk of depression developing.


Cognitive therapy techniques

Similar to the above paragraph, encouraging family members when faced with problems to deal logically and intellectually with the situation, to avoid sweeping negative statements about themselves and their situation, and to remind themselves that things may be difficult but not catastrophic all help in dealing with a wide variety of emotional problems and emotional symptoms in life.  There are many self-help manuals available, which teach cognitive therapy for various emotional illnesses, and the strategies in those manuals are the same ones that can be used when stresses appear, long before the stresses have had a chance to produce an illness.


Reducing excessive perfectionism

Perfectionism brings with it practical advantages and practical success in many situations, but typically at the cost of making the person involved extremely anxious and stressed.  Taking a more relaxed attitude to life in general, to one’s personal standards, and to the standards we expect of others, will all reduce the anxiety which breeds depressive illness.  It may also make life much more pleasant for the person involved and for those around them, in whom they are so continuously disappointed!


Important Disclaimer:  This site is medical information only, and is not to be taken as diagnosis, advice or treatment, which can only be decided by your own doctor.

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