How we understand depression: Does it apply to you?

We have been doing Instagram live videos recently, answering questions and offering support to families. We have discussed everything from dealing with shouting teenagers to support for parents struggling with trauma. However, one of the videos that families seem to find most helpful is Understanding Depression, as can be seen here.

A mum messaged us to let us  know that this video left her feeling happier and calmer about her child’s low mood, and more confident in her ability to support him. That is music to our ears here at Pocket Family!

We understand that depression can be really scary, concocting a whole range of feelings within ourselves from guilt to hopelessness to shame to helplessness. Often depression isn’t well understood. One way of thinking about depression, instead of as a disease or something negative, is through the Polyvagal Theory. When we’re in our normal state as humans, we feel at ease and connected. But when we sense danger in our environments, we tend to move to one of two positions. Either fight/flight response, where we feel anxious and agitated. Our heart rate might go up. We might breathe faster. And we get ready to fight or flee. But we’re also capable of another position. Sometimes, when people feel under attack, they simply withdraw, freeze and go into a low arousal state. This can be very helpful. If we think back to the caveman-women days, whenever there was any danger, such as insufficient food or resources or a predator, they would withdraw to safety, and shut down their bodies to conserve energy until the threat had passed.

Sound familiar?

Depression in many ways can be thought of as our bodies picking up on modern danger cues around us. When these feel too much, our bodies instead withdraw and shut down. In some ways, this is a healthy and useful. The problem arises when we get stuck in that position and cannot get back up.

As humans, it is crucial that we can move between these states to make sure we complete everything we need to do, protect ourselves, interact with each other, and enjoy life. But when we get stuck and it starts to impact our work, studies, relationships, or ourselves, then it is no longer adaptive to shut down and we need some help to unstick ourselves.

If you or anyone else you know is struggling with depression, we at Pocket Family, are always here to help.

There are also some other resources that you may find useful:

  • The British Psychological Society released a document last year on understanding depression, you can see it here.
  • The mental health charities, MIND and Time To Change have some great support for young people and adults with lots of first-person accounts on dealing with depression.
  • MeeTwo is a peer-support free app for teenagers that provides a safe and secure forum to discuss any issues affecting their lives while receiving expert advice
  • MindEd for Families is a website offering support and advice for parents with children with mental health difficulties.

Follow us on Instagram or Facebook for more regular support.

Take care,

Pocket Family Psychologist

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"Dr Andrea Shortland’s session for MediaCom on a children’s mental health was incredibly informative"

“Dr Andrea Shortland’s session for MediaCom on a children’s mental health was incredibly informative. During the second period of lockdown and home-schooling; parents and children found themselves again in a period of upheaval and transition. Many parents and carers were extremely worried about their children’s mental health and their own ability to be present and engaged whilst also playing the role of teacher and care giver. Dr Shortland gave attendees an insight into how many parents were feeling; tips on supporting children and helping them cope whilst studying from home and also managing their mental health. She also helped us realise the importance of taking care of ourselves in order to effectively support our children. It was such a useful session that we realise it was also pertinent for not only children’s mental health but also adults! We will be holding another session with Dr Andrea and MediaCom soon.”

Avelon Thompson, MediaCom (following a parenting workshop)