Depression Awareness Week
As cancer survivors, many of us have struggled with that unexpected feeling of depression and loneliness that surprises us after treatment is finished. I say unexpected and surprises, because for many of us we are quite often shocked and confused at the intensity of the feelings of depresssion that hit us. Surely we should be ecstatic – after all we have “beaten” cancer, we have been given a second chance. So why then do we feel so sad?
The fact is that cancer survivors are more likely than their healthy peers to suffer serious psychological distress such as anxiety and depression, even a decade after treatment ends. The physical and emotional fallout of cancer treatment can contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression. This is a theme I return to time and again in this blog, but I feel it is important that we speak out about it, and it doesn’t become, like depression often does, a hidden grief in our lives. That is why I am so pleased when figures in the public eye speak out about their experiences with depression. It helps to remove some of the stigma and opens up wider discussions.
In Ireland, Aware’s Depression Awareness Week (DAWN) takes place this week and aims to highlight the issue of depression, reduce stigma and create greater public awareness about the support, information and education services offered by the organisation. Speaking at the launch, Mr David Carton, Chairman of Aware said: “Depression is something that visits every family in this country, but we know that many people never come forward for help and struggle alone with what is a treatable condition. At the start of a new decade and after 25 years of work, Aware is saying to everyone, young and old, ‘Don’t deal with this on your own, there are options available to you through aware.ie or our loCall helpline and you can recover from depression’.”
Founded in Dublin in 1985, the services provided by Aware are needed now more than ever: The World Health Organisation suggests that in just ten years time depression will be the second most disabling condition in the world after heart disease. More than 400,000 people in Ireland experience depression at any one time. Aware’s information and emotional support services, including new online support services which will come on stream in the next couple of weeks, offer people a safe space where they are understood and respected, where they can talk through their particular concerns and explore options available to them. Early intervention and ongoing support are key to managing and recovering from depression. Anyone who is concerned about depression can access Aware’s support services, which include a loCall helpline (1890 303 302) open 365 days a year as well as support groups across the country.
I often think how sad it is that having survived a life-threatening illness such as cancer, some survivors go on to live a life filled with fear, anxiety and depression. I urge you if you are feeling depressed, lonely or finding it hard to cope with fearful or anxious thoughts, please seek help – find a therapist, find a support group, go meet and talk with others who will understand what you are experiencing. You are not alone, however much it may feel that way to you now. If you are unable to open up to those closest to you, or if you are genuinely on your own, then groups like Aware are there with a listening ear.
There is help out there – all you have to do is ask. Life after cancer is not just about being alive, it is also about living well. And after all you’ve been through, don’t you deserve to live a long healthy and happy life?
For more information see http://www.aware.ie or call 01 661 7211.