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This week, people around the world marked World Mental Health Day - an important day to reflect upon our changing attitudes to illnesses such as depression. We have come a long way, but we also have a long way to go in reducing stigma and encouraging more people to be open about depression and not to feel ashamed or embarrassed. Michelle Byrne from the Northern Ireland depression charity, AWARE, looks at the recent increase in adults being diagnosed with depression and explores the reasons as to why this could be.

This week, AWARE used World Mental Health Day to share statistics on the number of people in Northern Ireland with depression. People may or may not be surprised to find that Northern Ireland has seen a 60% increase in the number of adults diagnosed with depression in the last five years. In 2018, 1 in 9 adults were diagnosed with depression – a jump from 1 in 15 in 2013.

 

There are a variety of reasons as to why this number could be increasing. Charities like AWARE and other mental health charities are doing a fantastic job at breaking down the stigma which depression still has today. There is no doubt that this could be encouraging more people to visit their GP about difficulties they are facing. However, we are also living in a challenging climate with greater financial burdens. Parents are struggling with the cost of childcare; the impact of welfare reform is hitting people hard and the influence of social media and the idea of ‘social perfectionism’ is putting an increasing amount of pressure on people today. All of this combined could be having a detrimental impact on our mental health and contributing to the rising number of people in Northern Ireland with depression.

Depression does not discriminate and can affect any one of us at any stage in our lives. The World Health Organisation state that depression is the leading cause of ill-health and disability worldwide.

AWARE offer a number of services to the public including 23 face-to-face Support Groups throughout Northern Ireland which offer weekly and fortnightly support to people with depression, bipolar or anxiety related conditions. AWARE has recently developed an online support group for those unable to access a face-to-face group.

AWARE has a suite of mental health and wellbeing programmes which we deliver into communities, schools, colleges, universities and workplaces throughout Northern Ireland. These programmes include Mood Matters for young people; adults; new and expectant parents and those in later years. We offer a six week Living Life to The Full Programme which is an evidence based programme suitable for people experiencing low mood or stress and/or mild to moderate depression. AWARE also offer a .b Mindfulness programme which is delivered into post-primary schools throughout Northern Ireland.

We also offer Mental Health First Aid.  This is the help provided to a person developing a mental health problem or who is in a mental health crisis. The first aid is given until appropriate professional treatment is received or until the crisis resolves. This is a fantastic programme which is now becoming a prerequisite for employers to deliver to their employees in the workplace.

So, before you go home today, check in on a colleague you have been worrying about. Speak to that family member that has been behaving differently recently, and most importantly, check in with yourself and ensure that you are looking after your own mental health and wellbeing.

For more information on what AWARE offer and how they can help you in either a personal or professional capacity, please visit www.aware-ni.orgor call 028 9035 7820 or 028 7126 0602.

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