Where to begin when writing an article on something so impactful? I mean I could start by pointing to the fact that here in the UK the leading cause of death in young men is suicide. But we have all heard that statistic, haven’t we? A better thing to talk about is what to expect when you think are depressed.
The main plan of attack
So you go to your GP complaining you feel depressed: what is going to happen? Well, the first thing they will probably do is get you to fill in a standard questionnaire containing 9 questions. This is a diagnostic tool to help them ascertain if you are just suffering short-term stress or if you have full blown depression.
If it turns out you have depression you will likely be given the number to refer yourself to the Depression and Anxiety service. You may also be given a prescription of anti-depressants.
So you’re depressed – what next
Unfortunately anti-depressants are not “happy pills”. They take a minimum of two weeks to start to have any sort of therapeutic effects. And what’s more SSRI’s (one of the most common medications) have a plethora of fairly common side effects. These include: Weight gain, lack of energy, stomach cramps and (get this) suicidal thoughts. If you are lucky you will hit the jackpot and just get the side effect where it delays sexual gratification! (That one is borderline useful!)
The depression and anxiety service are underfunded. The offshoot of this is you can wait months before they make any sort of contact with you. Your initial consultation will be over the telephone and they will try and ascertain your situation. Pro-tip if they ask you if you have had thoughts of hurting yourself or suicide and you say yes they won’t treat you. If you are lucky they may refer you to the crisis team. If you are unluckyyou will be in a place where you are a too high risk for the Depression and anxiety service but not at a high enough risk to be under the care of the crisis team.
What do the DAS do
Not as much as you would probably like. They can give you links to online self-help sites and give you a few useful numbers. But if you are hoping they are going to give you counselling right off the bat you are probably going to be in for a rude awakening. In Somerset I was told there would be at least a six-month wait for group counselling. I was informed if I wanted individual counselling that it wasn’t available via the NHS. Of course, this will vary from county to county – but my experience of the DAS in Devon has been that their hands are equally tied.
What about the crisis team?
Hopefully, you don’t get to the point where you need them. Their job is to get you to the point where they are no longer worried you are going to kill yourself. They are good as well. Pro-active! Honestly the level of care and kindness they give the people in their care is invaluable and personally, they brought me back from the brink!
During my low point, they came to my house and chatted with me. They helped me sort my finances, arranged a food bank collection for me. And they helped write a note to my debtors. They were just lovely people to talk to. It’s such a shame this level of care can’t be afforded to the people who don’t want to die but are on that road. The mental health team are stretched so thin but what they do is essential!