“We know that 1 in 4 people in the United Kingdom will experience a mental health problem each year. In England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week*”
*these statistics have not changed much over the last decade.
At a recent creative writing workshop that I attended a piece written by Sydney Smith (1771 – 1845) entitled ‘Live as well as you dare’ was shared. The piece reminded me how important it is that those close to us reach out when life is not going well, and when those close to you go quiet, not to assume that all is well, or they are just having a good time. Loneliness and having a low self-esteem are known factors that can lead to or interconnect with having depression.
Depression is a low mood that last for a long time and may affect your everyday life. In its mildest form it may mean you just in low mood and a lack of motivation. When depression is severe it can make you have feelings of suicide and self-harm. The most important step is to reach out to your support network and also to get support as soon as possible.
In February 1820, Sydney Smith learnt that a good friend Lady Georgina Morpeth was suffering from depression. Sydney sent her a letter in which he provided her with twenty pieces of advice to help her overcome “low spirits” (The Selected Writings of Sydney Smith):
Foston, Feb, 16th, 1820
Dear Lady Georgina
Nobody has suffered more from low spirits than I have done – so I feel for you.
- 1st Live as well as you dare.
- 2nd Go into the shower-bath with a small amount of water at a temperature low enough to give you a slight sensation of cold, 75 or 80 (degrees)
- 3rd Amusing Books
- 4th Short views of human life – not further than dinner tea.
- 5th Be as busy as you can.
- 6th See as much as you can of those friends who respect and like you.
- 7th And of those acquaintances who amuse you.
- 8th Make low secret of low spirits to your friends, but talk of them freely – they are always worse for dignified concealment
- 9th Attend to the effects tea and coffee produce upon you.
- 10th Compare your lot with that of other people.
- 11th Don’t expect too much from human life – a sorry business at the best.
- 12th Avoid poetry, dramatic representations (except comedy), music, serious novels, melancholy sentimental people, and everything likely to excite feeling or emotion not ending in acting benevolence.
- 13th Do good, endeavour to please everybody of every degree.
- 14th Be as much as you can in the open air without fatigue.
- 15th Make the room where you commonly sit, gay and pleasant.
- 16th Struggle little and little against idleness.
- 17th Don’t be too severe upon yourself, or underrate yourself, but do yourself justice.
- 18th Keep good blazing fires.
- 19th Be firm and constant in the exercise of rational religion.
- 20th Believe me, dear Georgina, your devoted servant, Sydney Smith.
Some of Sydney Smith’s early advice is quite dated and harsh, but I think the undertone of looking after oneself when having or experiencing a mental health problem is clear. When you are falling into depression and can see no way out, or, you need ways in which to prevent depression or indeed any other mental health problem, 5 Ways to Wellbeing, produced by the Government Forsight Project on Mental Health Capital and Wellbeing compiled in 2008, provides us clear guidance on looking after our well-being and still applies today:
- Connect – social relationships and interaction are critical for promoting well-being.
- Be Active – regular physical paced exercise is good for both your emotional and physical well-being.
- Take Notice – remind yourself to ‘take notice’ of the world around you and this can strengthen your awareness.
- Keep Learning – to keep learning enhances self-esteem and encourages social interaction throughout your life.
- Give – taking an active interest in social and community events
Talking Therapies such as counselling or psychotherapy have been indicated as something that supports anxiety, depression and social isolation. So, if you are noticing that life is becoming overwhelming, then having a qualified and experienced Counsellor or Psychologist, then Joel Korn Counselling is there every step of the way to support in good times and bad. And if you haven’t heard from a friend in a while, just let them know you are there.