This morning's story on BBC News about Stoke City becoming the first Premier League club to try and do something about the depression in football has touched my heart. To see the topic being taken seriously and in such a tender way demonstrates the hope that is needed by so many.
Depression is a serious mental health illness: according to the World Health Organisation, as many as 350 million people around the world are affected at any one time, and it is estimated that 1 in 10 people in Britain have depression. As well as this, depression can affect anyone, no matter what their walk of life; it strikes people at all ages and from all sorts of backgrounds.
Next week, Wednesday October 10th, marks the 20th Anniversary of World Mental Health Day, an initiative thought up by the late Richard Hunter, the Deputy Secretary General of the World Federation for Mental Health.
Richard Hunter's dream was for the world to see that mental health is integral to overall health, and that things must change in order to improve the care and treatment of people when they experience mental illness, and 2012's theme for the day is 'Depression: A Global Crisis'.
Depression is a common mental illness and the key symptoms include:
• Low mood
• Loss of pleasure from things usually enjoyed
• Disturbed sleep
• Loss of confidence and low self-esteem
• Trouble sleeping
• Increased anxiety
These symptoms can make day-to-day life not only difficult, but in some cases impossible and, at its worst, depression can lead to suicide.
Shockingly an estimated one million lives are lost every year to suicide - that's equivalent to 3000 deaths a day!
Depression is a treatable condition, and so it is always best to try and speak to a GP, or other healthcare practitioner, if someone is either experiencing the symptoms, or is concerned for someone that they know. Usually treatment can be offered in Primary Care and it mostly consists of a combination of psychological support, psychotherapy and antidepressant medication, depending on the diagnosis.
It is also widely recognised that self-help can be instrumental in the treatment of depression, and that depression can be prevented and managed in a number of ways:
• Taking daily exercise
• Eating a balanced diet
• Using relaxation techniques such as meditation
• Making sure we get just enough sleep
• Avoiding and reducing exposure to stress
• Communication with other people about feelings
• Minimal consumption of alcohol and other substances
• Having something meaningful to do
• Being gentle with ourselves and each other
But, despite all the evidence and awareness of depression and how it can be treated, apparently only 50% of those across the world battling the illness are receiving treatment.
The generally negative attitude towards mental health is a key reason.
Common misconceptions and ignorance can result in people thinking that there is a need to 'pull one's self together'. As echoed by the former Premier League footballer, Leon McKenzie, this morning on the BBC, it can be a hard thing to ask for help, especially when there is stigma and people might not understand how a successful person with lots of money can be depressed.
Here in the UK there has been an emphasis on recovery and social inclusion in the treatment of mental illness and there are many charities and organisations, at a national and local level, not only providing information and offering services, but also promoting a positive change in how we think about mental health: The Mental Health Foundation, Let's Link, Rethink Mental Illness, Richmond Fellowship, Mind...to name only a few.
The main ethos of the recovery model is that recovery is the focus of any treatment and, therefore, the main principle is one of hope. The person is considered in a holistic way and seen as an individual, and not just a set of symptoms. The recovery process is a personal journey and one that should be built around the unique interests and goals of the person.
The other major part of recovery is social inclusion.
To be seen as an equal and valued member of society, with or without a mental health problem, is the key.
Stigma can literally strangle hope because it creates a sense of fear of talking about mental health.
This really needs to end.
The Time for Change campaign has been addressing the issue of mental health discrimination since 2009, and whilst things are improving (Time to Change report a 11.5% reduction in the average levels of discrimination reported in 2011 to 2008) there is still a huge amount left to do, and we all have our part to play, after all, 1 in 4 people in the UK are directly affected by a mental health problem.
So, let's all put in the diary - Wednesday 10th October, and let's set a task to do something, no matter how small, to change things for the better.
We can all try, whether it's something as simple as talking about mental health with a friend or signing up to the Time to Change pledge online (www.time-to-change.org.uk/timetotalk), when we learn about mental health we see that it can affect absolutely anyone and that to stigmatise mental health is diabolical!
Let's stop using terms like 'nuts', 'mad' and 'mental' - let's search our vocabularies for better phrases to describe surreal situations: let's not tangle mental health in to it.
Most importantly, let's try and understand, and by doing so, open up a world of hope.
Follow Louisa Daniels on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Louisa__Daniels