Mental illness and mental health are two things that not everyone could understand. When mentioned ‘mental illness’, most would link it with ‘madness’, ‘crazy’, and many other crude words.
According to U.K. Surgeon Journal, people with optimal mental health can have mental illness and people with no mental illness, can also have poor mental health. Stress, depression, loneliness, anxiety, personal or filial problems, and many more are contributors to deteriorating mental health.
Since 2013, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared World Mental Health Day on 10th October every year. The objective of commemorating this day is to raise awareness on mental health issues that many are facing, mostly in silence, and mobilising efforts in support of better mental health.
One of the most common mental health illnesses, that are faced by many regardless of age, gender, and background, is major depressive disorder. In the United States of America, at least 16.2 million adults had at least one major depressive episode in a year, leading to 800,000 deaths by suicide and at least 20 suicide attempts for each death. Anxiety is also another type of illness that many faces.
The Patron of the Malaysian Psychiatric Association (MPA), Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye mentioned, depression will be a major mental health illness among Malaysians by 2020 as more people are expected to experience increased stress due to work and family pressure. According to the 2017 National Health and Morbidity Survey, 29% of Malaysian had depression and anxiety disorder compared with 12% in 2011. Tan Sri Lee also said the survey done by experts on the prevalence of depression among Malaysians showed a 50% increase in the number of depressed patients from 2011 to 2015.
People with depression would know how horrible the condition is affecting their health, both physically and mentally, hindering their daily activities and personal relationships. However, depression is not an illness that should be tackled alone by the sufferer in silence. Over the years, society as a whole is getting a better awareness and understanding of what depression, mental illness, and mental health are. According to the University Malaya Medical Centre of Psychiatry Department, depression and anxiety were treatable if detected early.
It is not impossible.
In this blog, we will lay out a few suggestions on how you or helping the people near you, to cope with depression.
6 Ways to Cope with Depression
- Consider Seeking Professional Help
We know that it is not easy for many sufferers to seek help, afraid of the judging eyes as you tread to the psychiatrist’s office, or the thought of meeting a psychiatrist terrifies the sufferers.
Sufferers might find it useful to speak out on what is bothering their minds to a trusted professional. Certified therapists and psychiatrists are trained to help sufferers of mental illnesses to be comfortable, understanding their problems, and offering professional help to better cope with their depression.
Not only that, professional therapists can also help you find ways to solve the problems you are facing by giving different viewpoints to the subject matter bothering sufferers. Medication prescription is issued once the therapist felt it might help better to ease the sufferer’s physical and mental condition.
Some sufferers refuse to depend on medications and that shouldn’t be a problem! The professional therapist will suggest other alternatives to help ease your illness, such as acupuncture, exercise, hypnosis, or even meditation to which the sufferer will choose according to their comfort level.
Remember, self-diagnosis is not a good way of determining the mental health issue you are facing. Please go to a psychiatrics’ clinic or hospital to run check-ups and determine the exact state of your mental health. Seeking professional help is nothing to be ashamed of and it is another step of treating the illness that sufferers have.
- Build Inner Strength and Your Support System
Sharing your feelings and talking to someone you know, trusted, and feel comfortable with, helps a lot in your journey to treat depression. Suppressing and hiding your feelings are no longer the way to cope with depression. Talking about your feelings, insecurities, and doubts will give you a barrage of positive energy, filling up your body and mind.
If you are having a blue day, it is completely fine to let yourself feel the emotions, attend to them, and cry if you need to. But don’t stay there for too long and turn to talk to someone, as always.
Consider writing your emotions down in a diary or journal. When you feel better, write it down too! Journal is a way of writing our thoughts down, good or bad. You write about your tears, your voice of reason, and emotions freely.
When you hear dark voices in your head, talk to someone you trusted and feel comfortable with. Find a strong support system in your dearest family members, relatives, or even friends. Often time, we are reluctant to turn to the people dear to us for the fear of burdening them, when in fact, they will be the most likely person to welcome us with open arms to share our problems with. They are the happiest too when we turn to them with our problems because they love us dearly to help us.
Turning to prayers, reading and reciting the holy book or hymn is also another way for us to seek solace and peace. Meditation or listening to your favourite music will help to create that happy tune in your head.
Building inner strength is tough but, it is possible! Building inner strength and a strong support system around you go hand in hand.
- Set Attainable Goals
Set small attainable goals daily, such as taking out the trash, do laundry, revamp your room, or update your journal. Don’t worry if you can’t do or didn’t do anything on your list today! Remember, there is always a tomorrow.
You can do something you enjoy too! Maybe bake a cake or cookies, dance, sing, knit or even binge-watch TV shows on Netflix. Some even spend their time rescuing stray cats and dogs around their neighbourhoods and the surrounding areas. It gives them a sense of accomplishment to be able to help other living creatures in their suffering. In other ways, it gives them a sense of purpose on what to look forward to by fighting for a good cause.
Remember to reward whenever you achieve your goal for the day and pat yourself on the back.
“Good job today.”
“Well done, me!”
“You nailed it today, me!”
Self-encouragement is a good self-motivator for you to look forward to each day. Setting attainable goals help you make life more meaningful and purposeful as you keep yourself busy with meaningful actions.
- Try Something New Daily
Research shows that when life falls into a patterned routine, doing something new can improve overall well-being and strengthen social relationships. It applies to everyone, depression or not.
You can always challenge your brain and thoughts by doing new things such as sports, taking classes or try to make that DIY fairy lights you found on the internet. Perhaps in a week or every 10 days, change the pattern of your day by planning a luncheon or a dinner out with your family or friends. Planning a day out for movies or shopping during the weekend is also a good way to fall out of your routine as it gives you something positive to look forward to.
Try it out with someone that you feel comfortable with and allow yourself to have fun!
- Regain a healthy lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle is undeniably important as it can affect the state of your body, including your mental state. A healthy lifestyle can be a great boost to your immune system, physical and mental state.
Sleep disturbances are common to people with depression; either insomnia or oversleeping. Try to train yourself to get a healthy sleeping routine, aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep at night, the optimum being 8 hours. Discipline yourself into going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. This pattern can help you with your daily schedule too while making you feel more balanced and energised!
Maintaining a healthy diet is also part of a healthy lifestyle. Eating healthily can have a real and significant impact on your feelings and actions. Eat a balanced diet consisting of carbohydrates, Vitamins, proteins, and less on fat, sugar, and processed food. Try to limit intakes of caffeine, soda and depressants like alcohol.
Exercise and physical activities can be powerful depression fighters. Research suggests that for some, exercise can be as effective as medication! Through exercises and sports, our body helps to release toxins and the brain will release positive hormones. It keeps our mind and body busy. A good 15 minutes cycling or 30 minutes of brisk walking around your neighbourhood is good enough! The sun and fresh air will be able to help calm the mind and giving us a sense of tranquillity too.
Many therapists are now using essential oils during their counselling sessions with their patients. It is both believed and proven that some essential oils contain natural anti-depressants and natural sedative effects that may be good for people who have depression, some even managed to avoid depressive episodes or shorten it.
Trying out natural remedies is another option if some people want to reduce their dependence on medication.
Below are the essential oils that have been tested, certified, and proven by psychiatrists and aromatherapists, who have successfully helped their patients or other sufferers to ease their illness and symptoms.
i. Lavender essential oil: Anti-depressant, relieves stress, uplifting and calming, supports brain function, and improves sleep quality
ii. Bergamot essential oil: Effective in treating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), uplifting, stimulating, relieves stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression
iii. Roman Chamomile essential oil: Calms nerves, reduces anxiety, relieves symptoms of anxiety and depression, and reduces symptoms of insomnia
iv. Geranium essential oil: Improves mental functioning, uplifting, and calming
v. Jasmine essential oil: Improves sleep quality, uplifting, and helps with falling asleep
vi. Orange essential oil: Uplifting, calms anxiety, reduces symptoms of depression, reduces symptoms of insomnia
vii. Grapefruit essential oil: Reduces stress, uplifting, and energising
viii. Frankincense essential oil: Reduces stress reactions and negative emotions, uplifting, and balances hormones
ix. Sandalwood essential oil: Promotes mental clarity, relaxing, and calming
x. Ylang Ylang essential oil: Uplifts mood and fights insomnia
xi. Clary Sage essential oil: Hormone-balancing, relieves insomnia, and relieves stress
xii. Patchouli essential oil: Releases serotonin and dopamine hormones (anti-depressants), and reduces insomnia
The journey to self-acceptance and self-love is one full of trials and challenges and it is attainable!
It is important for you, our beloved reader or those near to you, to not give up! Along the way, you will be able to learn more about yourself, understand your emotions, and know that you are not alone in this journey. Always reach out to others to talk. Even during happy days, do share with someone of your happiness!
We heard you. We love you. You did great. You are not alone!
Always feel free to reach out to local organisation for 24 hours support, every day, if you can’t reach your support system.
HELPLINE (Free and confidential)
+6082-242800 (Befrienders Kuching) (Online 24 hours)
+603-79568145 (Befrienders KL) (Online 24 hours)
+6082-231459 (Mental Health Association of Sarawak)