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If you are feeling overwhelmed by a crisis then a support group may be able to help you through it.

A support group lets you know that you are not alone, that there are others who understand what you are going through. A group can also give you hope that you can get through whats going on, a place to start working through your emotions and feelings. You may be able to develop some skills that will assist you. It may be easier to express exactly how you feel in a support group than it is with family and/or friends.

How long  you remains in a support group depends on you and the issues you are grappling with. It is up to you and there are no set rules stating how long you need to attend. By sharing your own experiences with others you can contribute to the well-being of the whole group.

Guidelines for a good support group:

  • Confidentiality – protects the privacy of its participants by not disclosing what members share during the meetings to those outside of the group. Group members do not disclose who attends meetings to people outside the group
  • Avoids counseling or offering unsolicited advice
  • Everyone gets a chance to share
  • Encourages and provides a medium for honest sharing of personal experiences and feelings
  • Provides a safe non-judgemental environment to enable participants to explore and talk about their feelings
  • Encourages an environment of positive reinforcement and hopefulness
  • Has an experienced, stable facilitator(s) who can steer the session and ensure the meeting is not dominated by a few individuals
  • Meetings have a defined format that is adhered to

It is a big step the first time you attend a meeting. You may feel like an outsider and feel a bit anxious. It is recommended you attend at least three meetings before deciding whether or not the group is for you. You should be able to feel comfortable with the group and with the facilitator. If you have any concerns or fears about joining a group please discuss this with the facilitator.

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New generation anti-depressants have little clinical benefit for most patients, a recent study suggests. A BBC News article reports on the findings of a University of Hull team who reviewed data on 47 clinical trials. They concluded “the drugs helped only a small group of the most severely depressed.” The makers of Prozac and Seroxat, two of the commonest anti-depressants, said they disagreed with the findings.

One of the main authors of the research is Professor Irving Kirsch. Kirsch has published 8 books, 40 book chapters, and more than 175 scientific journal articles on placebo effects, antidepressant medication, hypnosis, and suggestion.

The meta-analysis concluded that the overall effect of the new generation of anti-depressants was below the recommended threshold used to determine clinical significance. The apparent good results for very severely depressed patients, they reported, came from the fact a patient’s response to the placebo decreased rather than any notable increase in their response to the treatment.

What Do These Findings Mean? These findings suggest that, compared with placebo, the new-generation antidepressants do not produce clinically significant improvements in depression in patients who initially have moderate or even very severe depression, but show significant effects only in the

Anti-depressant tablets

most severely depressed patients. The findings also show that the effect for these patients seems to be due to decreased responsiveness to placebo, rather than increased responsiveness to medication. Given these results, the researchers conclude that there is little reason to prescribe new-generation antidepressant medications to any but the most severely depressed patients unless alternative treatments have been ineffective.

Initial severity and antidepressant benefits: A meta-analysis of data submitted to the Food and Drug Administration. (PDF 222KB)

As always, if you have any concerns regarding your medication, we recommend discussing these with your doctor, rather than making any changes to your medication on your own.

by Mitch Golant, PhD

Los Angeles psychologist Mitch Golant, PhD, is The Wellness Community’s Vice President of Research & Development and author of several books including “What To Do When Someone You Love Is Depressed” (Holt, 1998).

He Says: For many years, I facilitated support groups for cancer survivors and their families at The Wellness Community in Santa Monica, California. Discussions in family groups often focus on how members can help loved ones with cancer fight for recovery without becoming overwhelmed by the burdens of caregiving. One group member, a woman of 55, talked about how she became a “strengthened ally.”

“Once a week, I have lunch with friends,” Sylvia confided. “I see our granddaughter every Friday. I also visit our son in college as often as possible. When I return from these outings, I feel renewed. That’s when I can be a source of comfort to Bill.” Sylvia’s strategies can work for you. In fact, if you ignore your own needs for the sake of your ill loved one, you can experience “compassion fatigue” and “burnout.”

What is Depression?

Depression is a biological, psychological, and social illness affecting more than 18 million people. Clinical depression has two key components: profound sadness and hopelessness. Symptoms include changes in sleep patterns, loss of interest in daily activities and hobbies, appetite fluctuations, diminished productivity, self-medication through alcohol or drug abuse, and thoughts of suicide. Although 90 percent of depressed people can be helped by a combination of medication and psychotherapy, only 30 percent receive treatment.

While not everyone coping with cancer experiences depression, sometimes the diagnosis can trigger it. For others, the side effects of treatment can lead to depression. And even caregivers can become depressed. Burnout is the feeling of having reached the limits of your ability to cope. Unfortunately, burnout is common among caregivers. According to burnout expert, Dr. Herbert J. Freudenberger, you may be experiencing burnout if you have symptoms such as headaches, insomnia, backaches, lethargy, lingering colds, gastrointestinal upsets, or cardiovascular problems.

Burnout also has emotional components. You may find yourself frustrated and angry, empty or sad, pessimistic, resentful, insecure, or depressed. These are all expectable reactions to feeling stressed beyond endurance. But before you can be helpful to your loved one, you must know how to cope with your own situation.

Becoming a Strengthened Ally

As a strengthened ally, you provide aid and comfort through self-care and knowledge. You understand that a depressed loved one is terrified of being abandoned, and yet, may push you away. Still, there are many ways to revitalize your energy: Get Support Join a support group. Research shows that talking to people who share your problems reduces stress and alleviates isolation.

  1. Educate Yourself Information is power. Understanding the course of cancer and depression, the possibility of relapse, the recommended treatments, and the side effects of medications can help you plan for the future.
  2. Keep a Journal That’s where you can dialogue with yourself to vent frustrations and problem-solve without causing conflict.
  3. Maintain Friendships Continue your contacts with friends and family
  4. Preserve Routines Retain as much control over the routines of life as is reasonable.
  5. Continue with Hobbies Don’t abandon favorite pastimes that always give you pleasure.
  6. Remember That Life Goes On You are a separate person and are entitled to enjoy your own life. Attend classes, start a hobby, go to a movie, make new friends.
  7. Learn to “Let Go” Allow yourself to feel replenished by others’ gestures – a card or a kind word left on your answering machine. Music, religious services, or a video can also help you recharge your batteries.
  8. Seek Respite Realize that you can’t do it all. Allow others to do some caring in your stead. Reach out to them.
  9. Attend to Your Physical Health Eat well and get enough sleep. Tend to any physical ailments that arise.
  10. Trigger the Relaxation Response Biofeedback, meditation, yoga, listening to music, even washing your car can relieve stress. By focusing on breathing, you trigger the mind-body connection.
  11. Deal with Frustration A short fuse can be a sign of burnout. If these suggestions have not worked, you may need more emotional support such as a support group or private therapist.
  12. Self-Care and Setting Limits Identify when you’re feeling overwhelmed and be firm in delineating what you can and can’t do.

Being a strengthened ally means having the ability to derive simple pleasures in the face of uncertainty. It means sharing your fears and struggles with someone you trust. And, it can also mean having faith in your loved one’s ability to cope.

Following on from John Kirwin’s high profile depression campaign other elite sports people seem to be at risk from depression. Not perhaps surprising that people under extreme pressure do suffer from depression. The cumulative effect of the extreme pressure to succeed, that drives top sports people, mean that when they get to the top of their game they can sometimes crash and burn. Not all top sports people suffer from depression, but we hearing more about the ones that do. Is our interest in them some kind of delight in how the mighty have fallen or is it that it makes their humanity visible.

Clive James says about celebrity:

Celebrities often have fame comparable to that of royalty. As a result, there is a strong public curiosity about their private affairs. Celebrities may be resented for their accolades, and the public may have a love/hate relationship with celebrities. Due to the high visibility of celebrities’ private lives, their successes and shortcomings are often made very public. Celebrities are alternately portrayed as glowing examples of perfection, when they garner awards, or as decadent or immoral if they become associated with a scandal.

One positive sign is that more athletes willing to talk about their experience.

We are very excited to have Gill Graham and Michelle McCarthy from the Mothers and Babies unit at Princess Margaret Hospital, speak to us on the topic of Post Natal Depression. Gill is the Clinical Manager and Clinical Nurse Specialist of the outpatient team and has worked in the service for nearly ten years. Michelle is a Clinical Psychologist who has been at Mothers and Babies for nearly three years. Both clinicians have considerable experience in working with women who are adjusting to parenting and in particular, women who have postnatal mental health issues.

DATE: Monday 10 March 2008
TIME: 7.00pm till 9.00pm

COST: Entry is free, however a donation would be appreciated
Registrations are essential. To register contact:
Depression Support Network
Phone 03-366-8083, or fax office@dsn.org.nz

Understand the disorder

Take time to find out what depression is and isn’t. There are so many popular misunderstandings
about the illness.

Keep in mind that they can’t just “snap out of it.”

Remember that the other person has a real illness. Like someone with cancer, they can’t simply “get over it.” Try not to express your frustration or anger in ways you’ll regret later. Don’t suppress your own feelings either.

Point out the positives

If the person is a pessimist, point out the positive things that are happening. Your friend or loved ones negative childhood programming may prevent them from seeing these things for themselves. People who are depressed have a vested interest in the lie that ‘nothing will go right’.

Ask about their feelings

Encourage your friend or loved one to let you know their feelings. Your ability to listen nonjudgmentally will be helpful in itself. This will also give you the opportunity to learn about their childhood patterning and what role you are currently playing in it. Who do you represent to you loved one from their early life? What actions of yours may be triggering depressive episodes?

Admit your own powerlessness against the disorder

Many people believe they can cure someone if they love them, just by the sheer force of their love. As if that feeling alone should be enough to effect permanent change. It isn’t. Step back, admit that alone your are powerless against the disorder. Seek support for yourself from friends and perhaps psychotherapist. The first stage toward helping the other person is to get help for yourself.

Deal with the guilt

To avoid feeling guilt over someone else’s depression acknowledge that you are not responsible for it. It’s not your fault and you alone can’t cure it. You can offer support, you can show friendship or love, whichever is appropriate, but you are probably too close to be able to solve the problem.

Do not try to rescue

A person suffering from depression will probably be a slave to their depression. They may well put pressure on you to fix whatever they perceive to be the problem. Sometimes depression can be temporarily assuaged in this way and the depression will lift. But it will come back and even more demands will be made. You may be forced into trying to play the role of omnipotent parent and feel guilty when you fail to provide what is demanded of you.

Don’t make excuses for them

Never become part of the depressed person’s denial. Don’t lie for them. Making excuses or covering up for a friend or colleague only prevents them from getting timely help. Ultimately covering up for them may do them harm and delay them recovery.

Encourage them to seek help

Many sufferers from depression deny that they have a problem or try to self-medicate with alcohol, or overwork or shopping. Your self-preservation depends on getting the depressed person in your life to seek help.

Discover your own patterns

It’s important to realize that the depressed person’s depression is playing a role your own system. You may be getting a “secondary gain” from their disorder. Their behavior may seem to give you an excuse to vent your own angry feelings, or an opportunity for you to play the knight in shining armour or perhaps a reason to excuse your own shortcomings. If you find yourself having relationships with a number of people who are depressed, there’s probably a reason for this in your
own past. Seek help in dealing with your own way of being.

Tell them what you need

The depressed person in your life may be ill, but there are still things that you will require from them. If you are not honest about what you’re getting from the relationship and what you want to get, you will make the other person feel even worse about themselves. Learn how to identify your own needs and boundaries and be true to them. Know when it’s OK for you to compromise and when it’s not. Be honest about what you can and cannot do, and about what you will and won’t do.

Never promise what you can’t fulfill. You may often be asked to.

Above all remember that even the worst depression is curable and you alone can’t cure it. The turning point can come at any time
Based on ‘Nine Rules for Living with a Depressed Person’ By Bob Murray, PhD

February 2008
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