July 15, 2020

July 15, 2020 | Articles


Can depression be prevented?

Prevention is better than a cure, but does this apply to mental health issues such as depression?

Can depression be prevented?

Prevention is better than a cure, but does this apply to mental health issues such as depression?

Depression is caused by a number of possible factors. Genetics account for 40% of the total risk of developing clinical depression, and personality plays a part too. Life events and environmental factors can also cause higher vulnerability: pregnancy, medical illness, high stress and drug and alcohol use for example.

We have little to no control over many of those risk factors, but does that mean prevention is impossible? Or is it possible to prevent depression?

How to stay well

Beyondblue board director Professor Michael Baigent says there are measures we can take to reduce depression risk. “If you’ve had an episode of depression in the past, being aware of your vulnerabilities or stressors can help prevent another episode,” he explains. “There are things you can do to stay healthy.”

However, Baigent says it’s okay to seek further help too. “If you’re doing those things and you’re still feeling depressed, go and see someone,” he advises.

Maintain your social support

Family members, your partner, friends, work colleagues and other trusted people within your community are the network that makes you feel confident and well. Staying connected with these people, and having honest conversations with them, is a huge step towards maintaining positive mental health.

Eat well

Baigent says although there is no real evidence linking diet with depression, any dietary deficiencies could lead to illness. He says: “A normal healthy diet and regular exercise is beneficial in maintaining mood”.

Beyondblue’s dietary guidelines include drinking plenty of water, eating a balanced diet high in whole, fresh foods, and eating regularly to maintain energy levels.

Reduce stress

While stress can be a part of life, there are ways you can deal with it better. “If there are mounting pressures and stressors, it can help to try and alleviate that stress as much as you can,” explains Baigent. “That might involve some problem solving or asking others for advice.”

And when the stress seems too big to fix, Baigent advises taking it one step at a time. “Find the biggest pressure and do some problem solving around getting some help,” he says.

Get into a routine

Sleep and a daily routine that promotes a healthy lifestyle and good sleep habits are vital for your mental health. “Maintain a routine, try to do things that maintain a healthy sleep habit,” advises Baigent. Beyondblue has some great tips for getting a good night’s sleep and maintaining a lifestyle that will help you stay well.

Keep active

Physical exercise can relieve stress and relax your mind. It doesn’t have to be strenuous activity: even an easy walk can make a big difference.

Baigent adds exercise is a great preventative tool. “We know from research that regular exercise is important in maintaining happiness. It’s very good for reducing and controlling anxiety and panic attacks too.”

Make time for things you enjoy

Being busy and stressed can result in us seeing fun as a lower priority, but this is actually when you should put it on your to-do list. “What people often do when they’re spiralling down into depression is they start to withdraw from pleasurable tasks,” notes Baigent. “Keep up some pleasurable activities, and schedule them into your day.”

Reduce alcohol

Alcohol is a depressant and has been linked with contributing to and worsening depression. Drinking alcohol should be avoided or limited to help prevent mental health issues.

Practise mindfulness

Mindfulness and meditation can calm the mind, focus on the present moment and increase self-awareness. This, in turn, can help you understand your triggers and risk factors for feeling down. “The strength of mindfulness and meditation is in preventing depression and anxiety,” says Baigent. The Black Dog Institute have some tips for learning mindfulness.

Information for readers

Research

 

 

This article was provided by SuperFriend, a national mental health organisation helping workplaces improve mental health and wellbeing for their employees and customers.