Depression and Disability


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Many people with long-term physical difficulties don’t like using the word ‘disabled’ about themselves but it is the word that the government uses to talk about people who have a long-term health problem. If you need to claim Benefits then it may be a ‘Disability’ Benefit or if an employer or a college treat you unfairly then it will ‘Disability’ law that is being broken. So we will carry on using this word here.

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Depression and Disability

  1. 1. 42 Park Road Peterborough PE1 2UQ 01733 555988Depression and DisabilityFeelings and Disability to you dies it can take many months to get over it but during this timeMany people with long-term physical your mind is working hard at gettingdifficulties don’t like using the word used to the loss. At first, you may‘disabled’ about themselves but it be sad all the time; gradually youis the word that the government are sad for less time and eventuallyuses to talk about people who you may be able to remember thehave a long-term health problem. person with fondness and evenIf you need to claim Benefits then smile at good may be a ‘Disability’ Benefit or ifan employer or a college treat you We call this feeling ‘grief’ andunfairly then it will ‘Disability’ law the process ‘grieving’. But otherthat is being broken. So we will changes in our lives can make uscarry on using this word here. feel the same way. Breaking up with a close friend, losing a job we like,Everybody, disabled or not, goes and so on. While we are gettingthrough times when they feel ‘down’ used to the changes, we will feelor low in mood, sometimes for days low.or weeks at a time. Sometimes weknow why we feel this way – losing Sometimes we don’t know whysomebody close, or having other we are feeling this way but there isthings go on in our lives which we always a reason. Sometimes we aredon’t want, for instance. so used to trying to deal with what is making us feel low that we stopBecause we can’t control everything noticing it. When the feelings go onthat happens in our lives, bad things for a long time this can be puzzlingare bound to happen from time to for us, and for those around us whotime. What this means is that feeling can see that there is somethingdown is ‘normal’. If someone close wrong.
  2. 2. Depression and DisabilityLiving with any type of disability is So, if you feel down for a weekdifficult. It can often seem that other or so, try:people around you get what theywant more easily. It may seem to To talk to someone else youyou that there are things you would trust about how you feellike to do that you will never be ableto. Other people are not always To remember that what you arekind if they know you are disabled. having to cope with is difficultBut because disabled people haveto cope with these things every day, Not to get angry with yourselfthey sometimes stop realising how –remember that you are copinghard it is, begin to feel very down with something that someand sometimes don’t know why. people couldn’t cope with at allIf you get down sometimes, tryto think how someone who is notdisabled would feel if they suddenly To treat yourself asbecame disabled and had to cope sympathetically as you wouldwith all the problems you have want to treat somebody elseto cope with all the time. You are who was going through theprobably doing very well to cope same thing.with all your problems. To keep on meeting friends andActually, a lot of people who become doing the things you know youdisabled, as a result of accidents enjoy - even if you don’t reallyfor instance, do find it very hard feel like it you will probably feelto cope and get very down before better afterwards. they learn how to cope. Disability and DepressionEven when we know why we arefeeling low it is often helpful to talk If you feel low for more than a fewabout it to somebody else. Sharing weeks and you don’t know why; ifproblems with somebody you trust you can’t tell yourself to ‘snap outis usually a good idea, especially if of it’ or if the things that usuallythey have experienced the same interest you don’t cheer you updifficulties themselves. If that isn’t then you may be experiencingpossible then you can sometimes what is often called ‘depression’find people who are trained to help. and you may need special help to start feeling better.
  3. 3. Most disabled people are not Feeling that you are to blamedepressed and disabled people for a lot of what goes wrongwho become depressed do notstay depressed. This is another Losing confidence in yourselfway of saying that it may not bethe disability itself which causes Wanting to harm or kill yourselfdepression but how people copewith it. If you become depressed it Crying or feeling like cryingmay be that you are having to cope although you didn’t cry easilywith change or something new. beforeThe difference between feeling Being restless a lot of the time‘down’ and feeling depressed isthat when you are depressed, the Lack of energy and feeling tiredfeelings are deeper and last for a lot of the timelonger. If you are down, you canoften tell yourself to do things to Sleeping much more than usualmake you feel better; that doesn’t or having trouble getting off towork when people are depressed sleepbecause they lose interest totally. Feeling bad tempered a lot ofThis is list of what might happen the timeif you or someone you know getsdepressed. Wanting to eat a lot more or a lot less than usualFeeling sad nearly all the time Not being able to concentrateFeeling hopeless about your as well as before, finding it veryfuture difficult to make decisionsFeeling like a failure or feeling Smoking or drinking too much.worthless Relying on social drugs.Not enjoying things you used to If you have had a number of theseenjoy, losing interest in things problems for more than a coupleyou used to be interested in, of weeks, or if you know someonelosing interest in sex who seems to have these problems,
  4. 4. Depression and Disabilitythen getting help from someone else You will probably need to seeis important. your counsellor every one or two weeks to begin with and youRemember, becoming depressed should expect to be seeing themis not being “silly” or a sign of for at least 6 months – feelings ofweakness. There are always real depression tend to get better quitereasons for becoming depressed slowly but you can expect to getand help is available. back to normal eventually.You may be a part of a support Anti-Depressantsgroup or be part of an organisation(such as Shine) which can help, so If counselling is not available ortry this first. if you are really depressed, your doctor might suggest you takeMost people who become anti-depressants.depressed go to their own doctor,who can make a further referral if It is true that taking pills will not solvespecialist treatment is required. problems but sometimes people are so depressed that they lack theDealing with Depression mental energy to sort things out. Anti-depressants will sometimesThere are two main ways of dealing help by making you feel more likewith depression: tackling problems. Sometimes you can take anti-depressants and haveTalking about problems to a counselling at the same time buttrained person the type of antidepressant needs to be carefully chosen by your doctorTaking drugs called ‘anti- for this to happen.depressants’ which areprescribed by a doctor. Most anti-depressants are not addictive and you can come offYour doctor should be able to refer them quite easily when the timeyou to a counsellor or another comes. You need to be taking themsuitable therapist who will be able to for 3 to 4 weeks before they startfind out why you are depressed and to work and you need to take themhelp you to deal with it. When this is for at least 3 months before youavailable, this is first thing to try. can tell whether they are working
  5. 5. for you. Doctors prefer depressed patients to keep taking them for 6 How to help other peoplemonths. who become depressed.Anti-depressants can make you People who become badlyfeel peculiar or a bit poorly when depressed can lose interest inyou first start taking them but most helping themselves and they maypeople manage to cope. If you have started to shut themselvesget severe problems you should away from other people. It maytell your doctor. Do not increase seem to you that they are notor reduce the amount you take interested in being with you.without discussing it with yourdoctor. Drinking alcohol or taking Underneath the depression though,other drugs while you are taking there is usually a strong need to beanti-depressants can be dangerous close to others.– again, discuss this with yourdoctor. If they don’t seem interested in seeing you, try to show that you stillWhen you feel the time has come want to see them. Listen to them ifto stop taking antidepressants, they want to talk about problems.discuss this with your doctor. Youwill usually need to reduce the Being with a depressed personamount you take gradually. is often no fun – be prepared for their gloomy thoughts and lack of interest. Don’t tell them to “pull themselves together”. Being badly depressed means that they can’t do this. Most important, accept that you may not be able bring them out of depression yourself and try not to feel responsible if you seem to be failing.
  6. 6. If you are worried, suggest that they go to see their doctor if they For further informationhaven’t already been. If they won’t,don’t be afraid to tell someone else For more help and information aboutwho can help, even if the depressed depression contact:person seems not to want you to.It is important that they get to see MIND someone who can help without becoming too emotionally involved. Mindinfo Line: 0845 766 0163The person’s doctor, a teacher or aparent are people you could tell. The Depression Alliance A depressed person may not want 0845 123 23 20you to do this at the time, but maywell thank you later when they can The Royal College of Psychiatrists understand that you needed to thanks to Dr James Meikle,Consultant Clinical PsychologistHelp usShine relies on people’s generosity and support so we can help our clientswho depend on us for help and advice - people with hydrocephalus,spina bifida, their families and carers. To donate to Shine please or call 01733 421329.This information has been produced by Shine’s medical advisers andapproved by Shine’s Medical Advisory Committee of senior medicalprofessionals.Shine - Registered charity no.249338To see our full range of information sheets and to find out how to donateto Shine please visit