Edited by Jill Wright,
Yesterday I ran into a colleague at the sporting club we both belong to. He had lost a good deal of weight, but he seemed quite unhappy, and not particularly well.
He told me he had lost 13kg over a matter of weeks ... largely, he said, by not eating and not sleeping. He told me a psychiatrist had diagnosed depression and prescribed drugs.
The drugs weren't working, he said, and he was on the verge of giving them up. I suggested he should talk to his psychiatrist before doing that, because there could be side-effects from abruptly ceasing medication without guidance.
He wasn't aware of that. He wasn't aware either, of the type of depression he was suffering from. It made me wonder whether some patients suffering from depression are given enough information about the condition, and even if medication is appropriate - in the most common form of depression it doesn't help - whether they should also be given more information about supportive activities or treatments, including some of the non-medication therapies practised by psychologists.
Outside those therapies, there are other activities that can help with lifting mood. My colleague, for instance, wasn't playing the game that had given him so much fun in the past, and he didn't plan to take it up again.
Around him, other members were playing, while he sat in a little island of gloom. Physical activity can be extremely helpful for people with depression.
I've been looking at MoodKit, which is associated with the Monash University survey of smartphone mental health apps that I wrote about below, and it certainly provides helpful information like that.
I referred my depressed friend to both the study and MoodKit. I hope he talks to his psychiatrist about them as well.
I was thinking about all that this morning when I read an article about the use of music to reduce depression and increase self-esteem in young people.
The Cochrane Foundation reviewed five studies on the use of music to treat depression in adults, and concluded that it can be helpful, at least in improving mood.
When you consider that the per capita prescription rate of anti-depressants in Australia is higher than anywhere else in the world, outside Iceland, and 87 per cent of those prescriptions are written by busy GPs who face significant pressure to give patients a pill to solve their problem, I think that much more needs to be done in terms of guiding patients to supportive, or alternative approaches.