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Mental Health Awareness Week: Signs and symptoms to look out for

In the first of a blog series looking at mental health within agriculture, Naomi Wright, of Therpay with Naomi, looks at what signs and symptoms to look out for when it comes to identyfying depression in others.


Emily   Ashworth

Emily   Ashworth

I was raised by non-farming parents in Cheshire and, after studying psychology at A-level and having a desire to help people, I knew from the age of 17 that I wanted to be a therapist one day. I studied psychology and eventually trained as a psychotherapist.


I met my husband through young farmers and from there developed my love and understanding of the rural community and, what it takes to be part of the farming world. I saw how behind with mental health the farming industry is. I hope to be able to change the stigma of mental health issues, the stereotype of a therapist and the idea that we can just pick up and carry on when times are tough.


My passion is getting farmers to talk and I want to help get the industry to a place where mental health has a voice in farming and less people live and die in silence.

 

Depression is a common mental health problem affecting a large number of our population. Here I am going to cover some common signs that could mean you or someone around you may be suffering from depression. Each individual will present with, and experience, mental health issues differently and some signs will be completely personal. Often it is the changes in expression, words and behaviour that will offer you an insight into the internal pain and struggle being experienced.

 

And it is the word ’change’ that is important. Some things I include will resonate with you, as they do with me, but it does not necessarily mean we have depression. But, with the knowledge of these signs, you may be able to notice when someone’s behaviour changes.


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Naomi hopes to highlight the importance of mental health within the rural community
Naomi hopes to highlight the importance of mental health within the rural community

There are physical and psychological signs of depression, both of which can impact on the other.

 

1. Physical:

  • Sleeping a lot or not being able to sleep
  • Lack of energy such as difficulty getting out of bed and feeling sluggish
  • Change of appetite resulting in weight gain or loss
  • Unexplained aches and pains

 

Psychological:

 

2. Low mood

 

This is likely the biggest and most impactful factor covering a wide range of feelings, thoughts and behaviours, some of which are:

 

  • Feeling de-motivated with a loss of interest or pleasure in things usually enjoyed.
  • A lack of confidence and self-esteem, indicated by saying things like ’I’m not good enough’ or regularly putting themselves down. They also may say nothing and instead withdraw becoming quieter and more difficult to contact or communicate with.
  • Feeling hopeless or in despair, indicated with phrases such as ’I can’t cope’ or ’this is too much.
  • Experiencing frustration and feeling irritable without obvious cause. This may be indicated if the person is less tolerant or not able to explain how and why they feel upset or down.
  • People I know with depression often describe a fog. A dark heaviness on them described as numbing and flattening that prevents them from feeling happy, excited or hopeful. You may sense an overwhelming sadness from someone in their expression, tone of voice or body language.

 

3. Cognitive dysfunction

 

You may notice a change in, or a lack of, concentration and difficulty remembering and communicating.

 

4. Suicidal thoughts and self-harm

 

You may hear someone saying things like ’I can’t go on’, ’I don’t want to be here’, ’I don’t know if I can do this’ or even talking as though they have plans to leave indefinitely. If someone is talking about ‘the end’ or death differently or more regularly, this could indicate depression.

 

Similarly, using substances such as alcohol or drugs more frequently, or in larger amounts and, intentional cuts or bruises could indicate that they are feeling depressed.

 

This list could go on and, at the same time someone may show none of the above so it is always important to remember that each person will experience mental health issues differently. If you are concerned about them I would suggest to approach them with empathy and with recognition that this is your response to the changes you have observed.

 

Offer someone space to talk to you without pressure or consequences. Even just by noticing changes in someone and sharing your recognition of these could offer that person awareness of their own feelings and a chance to open up.

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