Managing depression

Clinical depression is a common and highly treatable condition, but too often stigma, concern about effectiveness of treatments and the belief that symptoms will resolve on their own prevent people from taking action and treating the depression. A number of treatments are available, many of which are not medication. The treatment most appropriate for you is something that you and your doctor or mental health professional will decide together. Here are some of the most common and effective depression treatments available today:

Pharmacotherapy. Medication to treat depression can be beneficial, particularly when combined with therapy or other non-pharmacological treatments, and especially if depression is severe. It is important to review the benefits and potential negative side effects of the various medications available with your physician. Medication should always be taken as prescribed and should never be mixed with other substances without a physician’s approval.

Individual or interpersonal therapy. Personal problems and troubled relationships often make depression worse. Therapy can help you develop coping strategies and overcome problems in relationships.

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). Research has shown that cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) can be effective at treating depressive symptoms for many individuals. CBT is a technique used by therapists that helps people recognize their strengths and abilities, to identify and increase positive activities in their lives, to identify and solve problems and to learn new strategies for managing stressors at work, at home and in relationships. CBT also teaches you to recognize negative thinking patterns and to change the patterns so that they are more accurate and positive. Research has demonstrated that our thoughts can be distorted; that is, they may not accurately reflect the current situation. Distortions are inaccurate, negative thoughts that produce negative moods. Individuals who suffer from depression often have more distortions about themselves, their current life and their future than individuals who are not suffering from depression. CBT helps individuals to recognize and challenge distortions and to see their lives more accurately. This results in the person feeling better about themselves and creates hope for the future.

Self-management & supported self-management programs. Self-management programs teach people how to take responsibility for managing their depression by learning the signs and symptoms of low mood or depression, understanding possible interventions and how to use them, and making decisions about the best course of action. This may include the use of self-help workbooks, websites and groups. In supported self-management programs, the workbook or other tool is accompanied by encouragement, information, assistance and follow-up by a health care provider or mental health professional.

How can I help?

If someone you know is suffering from depression, there are things that you can do to help. Respect the person’s perspective and allow them to express how they feel without judgment. Recognize that the individual cannot just “snap out of it.” Provide encouragement to them to participate in positive behaviours including physical, social and recreational activities. Always take them seriously if they talk about harming themselves. Provide strong encouragement to them to seek assistance from licensed professionals who are trained to help them. Encourage them to view support as a strength and not as a weakness. Support them in practicing the skills recommended by their therapists.

If you are experiencing symptoms of depression or would like assistance in using some of the strategies mentioned above, counselling is available to Manitoba Blue Cross members with Employee Assistance Program or Individual Assistance Program coverage. Reach out for support here.

Our staff can also provide information on additional resources in the community. Remember, one of the most effective coping strategies to overcome depression is to use the supports available to you. If you or a loved one are having thoughts of self-harm or suicide, it is important to seek immediate help.

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Where can I get more support?

If you have coverage with us, you can call the Employee Assistance Centre at Manitoba Blue Cross at 204.786.8880 or toll free 1.800.590.5553 or TTY 204.775.0586. You can also complete intake and request your first counselling appointment online.