how common is it really, and what can I do to help myself and others?
According to the Counselling team at Aston University, depression is so common that 1 in 10 people may experience it in their lifetimes. However, if you are feeling low mood this doesn’t automatically mean you are depressed – it's normal to have bad mental health and mood days. It’s important to note it can be harmful to use words like depression in the wrong context. By saying you have depression when you’ve had a rough week which you managed to bounce back from (did you see our article on resilience?), you minimize the experience of those who are clinically depressed.
If the low mood lasts two weeks or more, this could be a sign of depression. This article isn’t designed to diagnose you – so if you are struggling, please reach out to the counselling team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What we are here to do is talk about ways we can take control and manage feelings of low mood and depression (and remember what we said – be careful how you use the word ‘depressed’!). One top tip that our mental health experts advised was goal setting. Goal setting should be super specific, and it helps to write it down. So, you might identify a goal, such as completing an essay. What steps can you take to complete that goal? Maybe you could schedule time in for research, create an essay plan, and make sure to take some time to eat and rest. You might also ask yourself, “who can help me reach this goal?”.
Having an accountability buddy is a game changer – someone who can check in with you and make sure you are working towards your goals. It helps if you can hold them accountable for something too! It is also important to track your progress – you can do this on an excel sheet, by having a to-do list, or even in a diary. Make sure to have mechanisms under your belt if you have a bad day whilst trying to complete this goal – something that is guaranteed to make you feel better. For instance, blaring music and jumping around my room always helps me. AND FINALLY – how will you know you have reached your goal? How will you celebrate that victory?
Another top tip – and bear with me on this one because I know you’re gonna shake your heads and say ‘HOW?’ - is exercise. But Paige, I hear you cry, how am I meant to exercise when I don’t even want to get out of bed?? I am reading this article because I am depressed, not training for a marathon. Ok, fair enough, I hear you. Take it up with the counselling team, it’s their advice I am passing on.
In all seriousness though, we know exercise releases all of the happy hormones etc, so it is a great option. For me, it took working out what exercise I like doing. If you are anything like me, high school sports were your own personal hellscape and that negatively clouded your judgement on sports going forwards. However, I am here to tell you that as soon as you crack whatever sports/fitness makes you feel great, all the high school trauma disappears. For instance, I adore the dance workout videos you can find on YouTube. Not Zumba, but like, music themed dance workouts. Disney adults will go nuts for this one. Also, swimming is the most peaceful form of exercise. And you don’t even get sweaty!!! Take the time to work out what exercise suits you – we can’t all be Usain Bolt.
So, to summarize – set those goals, and get your swimming trunks on. And, most important of all, if you are struggling, please reach out to your GP or the University Counselling team or contact one of the numbers below. You’ve got this ??.
Free and confidential advice - Aston Advice Centre (email@example.com)
For a listening ear – MLK Multi-faith Chaplaincy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
For advice about your studies – Personal tutors (check your MAP homepage for details)
24/7 Safe Space – Samaritans (call 116 123)
Confidential Advice and Support for young people having thoughts of suicide, and anyone concerned about young people who are having thoughts of suicide – Papyrus (call 0800 068 4141, text: 07860 039967)
Emergency (on campus) – Campus Safety (call: 0121 359 2922)
Emergency (off campus) – Emergency services (call: 999)