Depression- More than feeling down

Depression- More than feeling down

By Sabrina Brient.

Depression is more than feeling sad or down. It is a mental illness that can be debilitating, and coping with it can feel difficult. Although common, with one in seven Australians experiencing depression in their lifetime, the shame that can accompany depression can drive us to pretend we are coping, hide the low mood and the impact it has, and project the image of a perfect life.  This withdrawal from our own feelings, the shrinking away from them in shame, can prevent us from seeking support or help.

When struggling with depression, you might find yourself feeling flat or ‘numb’, experiencing a lack of energy and reduced interest in what were once normal life activities and pleasures, such as hobbies or socializing.  There might be a lack of self-care- the things you typically do as part of self-care, such as going to the gym, may start to feel just too hard. You might have an increasing sense of worthlessness, a growing belief that you are helpless and reduced hope.  Depression can also include thoughts of death or suicide.

Suicidality isn’t always easy to recognise and doesn’t always look the way people think it might- it is deeply individual in how it feels and presents. For some, it can come with strong emotional drivers and a plan to hurt oneself. But for others, there are no strong emotions, possibly even an emotional detachment or that numbness we spoke about earlier. In this state, there may be a loss of hope in the capacity to create positive change and an overwhelming sense of helplessness, leading to gradually not caring about life enough to continue it. This lack of self-interest and self-care is a form of suicidality that may start as an idea (ideational and without a concrete plan) but can develop into actual intentions.

These thoughts can feel confronting and the societal taboos around suicide can be difficult to shake, leading to increased shame and withdrawal, which heightens feelings of isolation.

To break this chain effect, a fundamental step is to understand that there is no shame in feeling suicidal and no shame in seeking help.

Tips for managing depression and suicidality:

Give yourself permission to not be okay:

Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to feel sad. Shame can lead to feelings of failure and negative thoughts about yourself, which cause further withdrawal and isolation. Self-compassion and self-directed kindness help alleviate the shame and negative thoughts. Once you accept you, regardless of your state of mind, it becomes easier to allow others the opportunity to see and accept you.

Thoughts are just that; thoughts:

It is important to remember that thoughts of suicide are just thoughts. Yes, they can be confronting, but recognizing them for what they are can help you recognize that you don’t have to act on them.

Take small steps a day at a time:

We can change some of the things we are doing daily to make us feel a little better. This can include little changes like small amounts of exercise, eating healthy, or getting enough sleep. Taking those daily steps can make walking the path to wellness a little less overwhelming.

Open up to your friends and family:

When dealing with depression and suicidality, surrounding yourself with loved ones, and being a part of a community can help. They might have similar stories to share and can help you develop your own coping strategies. People who know you well can help to recognise signs that you are in trouble, signs that you may overlook.

Do things that help you feel good:

It is helpful to take time to do something that makes you feel good. This can include being in nature, having a bubble bath, going for a run, doing a hobby, and journaling. It’s not about doing what other people think you should do but doing what you enjoy and planning for it, however small it may seem.

Seek professional help:

There are lots of supports that can assist you when you are feeling depressed and suicidal. This can include reaching out to your GP and accessing a psychologist. A psychologist can:

  • Provide a safe space for you to talk about your feelings, or things that may have happened to make you feel depressed and suicidal.
  • Help you make a safety plan including identifying practical steps, providing supportive resources and links to people who can help in a crisis.
  • Identify situations, unhelpful and invalid beliefs, behaviours, and relationships that may be contributing to feelings of depression and suicidality.
  • Helping develop realistic and doable strategies and skills to cope and deal with depression and suicidality.

If you have been having suicidal thoughts or you’re struggling with depression, you may feel hopeless or like things will never get better. But there is always hope, and light at the end of the tunnel. There is always someone who cares and who will be ready to listen to your feelings.


If you are feeling depressed or suicidal, please reach out for support with one of the following helplines:

 Beyond Blue Support: 1300 224 636

 Lifeline: 13 11 14

 Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467

 If you are in an emergency, or at immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, it is important that you contact emergency services on 000.

This blog was written by Sabrina Brient. To learn more about Sabrina’s experience, click here.

To book an appointment to see her, or one of our other Psychologists, click here.

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