Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. A necessary day in the world as we are losing far too many good people to this dreadful disease. In Australia it is the leading cause of death amongst men aged between 18 – 44 years old! A very sad statistic.

Being a bloke who has suffered depression I suppose I have an insight into this world and considering not everyone suffers I thought it was important to share my experience to give those who don’t, a better understanding and hopefully more empathy towards those that suffer mostly in silence.

Depression affects everyone differently.

For me it affected me very differently each time I felt the return of the “Black Dog”. Sometimes I felt hopeless and trapped, I would feel angry all the time, no energy, loneliness, isolation and that nothing seemed to be going my way. I would sometimes feel like those around me would not notice if I was not there so I would often not go out with friends, go to the footy or be social in any way shape or form. Funnily enough there were times when I couldn’t explain how I felt and couldn’t understand why I felt that way either. Everything that was going on in my life was ok nothing bad was happening yet I felt sad all the time.

For me depression didn’t mean suicidal thoughts. I count myself as lucky. I can only imagine the struggle for those suffering from depression and how they must have felt feeling that there was no possible outcome other than taking their own lives.

So how did I combat this mental state and continue to function. Well after years of struggling I found that there were a couple of things that worked really well for me. Before I go on though I must stress please seek professional advice when dealing with Mental Health. There are some great organizations in Australia and around the world that can help so please reach out if you or someone you love needs help. I’ve reached out to Beyond Blue, Black Dog Institute, ARE U OK to name a few.

For my situation I found exercise was a great outlet to get my head “right”. Exercise promotes the release of Endorphins – the feel good hormone. This works very well. Stress contributes to depression and makes it hard to function so going for a run or boxing enables you to work out your stress and with the endorphin rush becomes very addictive.

In addition to this I am very careful with what I eat. Health eating is key to managing not only your weight but also your mental health. Refined/processed sugar is a big thing that I now try to avoid. And before anyone groans “here we go another PT hammering sugar” please don’t. I have spent the good part of two years trialing different foods and recording what impact it was having on me. I found that foods high in processed/refined sugar had a negative impact, ranging from mood swings, tiredness, loss of mental acuity and just plain feeling awful. Again I stress this is what worked for me and may not necessarily work for you.

Lastly and probably the most used management tool is medication. I sought medical advice from my GP, after trying to ‘be tough” and get through it was very supportive and worked along side me to manage my depression very closely. Medication can be very confronting for most. I found it very hard to accept that I needed to medicate myself for mental health issues. BUT once I started to take the antidepressants I began to feel better and was able to work on getting myself to a position where I could come off the medication all together and manage my depression via preventative measures rather than “cures”. I now no longer take medication at all. Something that I am very proud of. It took a few years to get to this point but it was well worth the effort to get through it.

Don’t forget too to ask for help. Often when I was in a depressed mood, i would think about calling someone in my family or one of my mates to talk to them but then I would convince myself that they were far too busy and wouldn’t be interested in talking to me. This was NEVER the case. Your family and friends are there for you no matter what. Just reach out to someone if you are feeling this way. There is no shame at a all in asking for help. Sometimes just being around people and feeling included is the easiest way to boost your mood so please just reach out.

For anyone who has never suffered depression you are very lucky. You also have a very important job. Don’t forget to just reach out and check in with those around you. A simple phone call or a text message to let someone know that you are thinking of them can change the course of someones day. Even be kind to the stranger that you meet on the street – you never know what struggles are going on for people and a simple kind gesture or a smile can change someones day dramatically.

I hope this has given some insight into what its like to have the “BlackDog” visit. Together we can all make a difference in the world.