According to the Black Dog Institute, one in five (20%) Australians aged 16-85 experience a mental illness in any year. The most common mental illnesses are depression, anxiety and substance use disorder, which often occur in combination. For example, a person with an anxiety disorder could also develop depression, or a person with depression might misuse alcohol or other drugs, in an effort to self-medicate.
The Facts & Figures…
- Mental illness can often be exacerbated by a delay in treatment due to the seriousness of the illness
- One in 7 people will experience depression in their lifetime
- Rates of depression are slightly higher in women with depression, affecting 17% compared 10% of men experiencing depression in their lifetime.
- Depression has the 3rd highest burden of all diseases in Australia and across the world
- 54% of people with mental illness do not access treatment
- Treatment can often be delayed due to difficulty achieving accurate diagnosis
- FIVE people die from suicide every day in Australia, with a further 30 people attempting suicide every day in our country
- A staggering 76% if these suicides are men, but 72% of men do not seek help for mental illness
- The groups who are most at risk are minorities such as Aboriginal people, LGBTI, people in remote & rural areas and children
- The World Health Organisation estimates that depression will be the number one health concern in both the developed and developing nations by 2030
- Depressive disorders are among the most prevalent of mental disorders in the United States. According to recent large-scale epidemiologic surveys, the lifetime prevalence of major depressive disorder is approximately 13-16% and the 12-month prevalence is approximately 5-7% (Hasin, Goodwin, Stinson, & Grant, 2005; Kessler et al., 2003). Depression is associated with enormous costs in terms of lost work productivity, interpersonal problems, and associated substance use (Barrett & Barber, 2007; Gilman & Abraham, 2001; Stewart, Ricci, Chee, Hahn & Morganstein, 2003)
- Feeling sad for weeks on end, however sadness might not be present
- Low in energy or motivation
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate
- Lack of enjoyment in thing that once interested or even excited you
- Feelings of worthlessness, low self-esteem, or inappropriate guilt
- Frequent crying for no apparent reason
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Recurrent Suicidal thoughts
- Lack of energy & feeling very tired
- Sleep issues – poor sleep quality, difficulty getting to sleep, insomnia
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Difficulty concentrating or poor memory, unable to make decisions
- Diminished sex drive
- Back pain
- Reduced immune function
- Digestive symptoms
Types of depression
There are different types of Depression and getting the correct diagnosis will ensure the right kind of treatment is recommended
- Major depression – also known as clinical depression or unipolar depression, refers to distinct episodes of depression lasting 2 weeks or more that have a negative impact on everyday functioning
- Melancholia – a less common and more severe form of depression which causes slowed movements and a complete loss of pleasure in everything
- Psychotic depression – a rare form of depression accompanied by a distorted view of reality, such as delusional thinking (negative and untrue beliefs) and hallucinations (e.g. hearing voices)
- Antenatal and postnatal depression – triggered by pregnancy or childbirth. Up to 10% of pregnant women and 16% in the 3 months after birth will suffer from depression
- Bipolar disorder – involves distinct periods of depression and elated moods known as mania. It was previously known as manic depression.
- Cyclothymia – a chronic disorder with at least 2 years of alternating periods of low and high moods that are less severe than major depression or mania. It can be described as a mild form of bipolar disorder
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – periods of seasonal depression, particularly occurring in winter, and related to low levels of sunlight. This condition is most common in places with long nights in winter, such as those regions closer to the north pole
Causes of depression are quite varied and sometimes hard to pinpoint, these are a very quick summary of things to consider
- Personality type
- Family history
- Long term stress which can negatively impact on adrenal function
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Some forms of medication have Depression and Anxiety as a side effect (e.g. antihistamines, antibiotics, anticonvulsants, barbiturates, blood pressure medication, synthetic hormones, narcotics, pain killers, sleeping medication, systemic corticosteroids, tranquilizers)
- Life events and traumatic experiences
- Changes in brain chemistry, primarily low Serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) in the brain responsible for transmitting information from one nerve cell to another
- Nutritional Deficiencies – particularly Folic Acid, B12, B6 and Omega 3 fatty acids.
- Environmental Toxins such as heavy metals, solvents, pesticides and herbicides can cause a variety of psychological and neurological symptoms including depression
- Depression can also be associated with conditions such as Hypoglycaemia, Hypothyroidism, Premenstrual Syndrome, Sleep Disturbances, Food Allergies, Chronic Pain or Inflammation, Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis
“A deficiency of ANY single nutrient can alter brain function and lead to depression, anxiety and other mental disorders” Murray & Pizzorno
The effects of Stress on our Mind & Body!
Increased cortisol levels are common in depression. Cortisol is elevated during times of stress, so let’s take a closer look at stress and what it does to our minds and bodies.
We’re all aware that some stress is “good”! and in fact it lets us know we’re alive, but what could be all part of life for one person, can be considered quite a stressful event for another, because we all have such varying reactions.
The “Stress Response” is broken down into 3 phases:
The “alarm” (fight or flight) where the body produces adrenalin and other stress hormones to helps us through a real or perceived dangerous situation
The “resistance reaction” allows us to continue this fight, long after the fight or flight response has worn off. This is where cortisol and other corticosteroids are utilised. One of the effects of cortisol is to stimulate the conversion of protein to energy, because by this stage of the response our glucose stores are (theoretically) depleted, they also promote sodium retention and keep blood pressure elevated so we have the energy and blood flow to deal with the stressor
The “exhaustion” phase is entered when the body is continually asked to maintain the “resistance reaction” or in other words, when we are under stress, for long periods of time. The result? Collapse of body function or specific organs.
High stress levels are closely linked to depression and anxiety, particularly when we look at the effects that stress levels have on body systems such as the adrenals, circulatory, immune and musculoskeletal.
So, what can we do to reduce our stress levels, or at least counter some of the impact of a stressful lifestyle?
Gentle, Natural, Effective Remedies & Therapies for Depression & Anxiety
The Primary objective in treating any kind of depression or anxiety should be identifying and eliminating the underlying cause, which can often be due to an organic (chemical) or physiological cause, as discussed above. The medical model where antidepressants are prescribed, works to increase serotonin (and/or its effects) in the brain, but medication should always be taken in conjunction with counselling or psychological treatment and we highly recommend making positive dietary and lifestyle changes to support this.
*We always recommend anyone suffering from depression or anxiety seek professional help. We have a range of practitioners here at The Garden who are qualified in treating mental health issues, we recommend seeing a holistic practitioner in conjunction with your GP*
If the cost associated with seeing a professional is a concern, visit your GP to discuss the option of a Mental Health Plan.
The therapeutic options discussed below are not to be assumed 100% safe because they are natural and in many cases they will have the best effect when used in combinations, for example, Bush Flower Essences with Thought Field Therapy and Dietary changes, to achieve the best results.
Bergamot – uplifting yet calming & relaxing
Clary Sage – relaxing, soothing, balancing this calming, balancing, and relaxing blend may support a healthy attitude and help balance emotions. mental clarity and to help quiet the mind
Patchouli – has a grounding and balancing effect on emotions
Ylang Ylang – lifts mood and calms
Geranium – calms nerves and lessens feelings of stress create an uplifting, pleasant environment. Its calming, floral aroma can encourage peaceful, spiritual feelings
Lavender – can help ease feelings of tension and promote restful sleep
Neroli – Neroli instils relaxation, uplifts mood, reduces feelings of anxiousness, and promotes overall well-being
Basil – helps focus and relieves stress
Sandalwood – enhances mood and has grounding and uplifting properties
These Essential Oils and more are available at The Garden through The Wellness Apothecary
Bush Flower Essences
Waratah is for the person who is going through the ‘black night of the soul’ and is in utter despair. It gives them the strength and courage to cope with their crisis and will bring their survival skills to the fore. This remedy will also enhance and amplify those skills. It is for emergencies and great challenges. This powerful remedy often only needs to be used for four or five days. The Waratah Essence was made with great assistance and guidance in profound metaphysical circumstances, from what was known to be the last flowering Waratah of the season.”
Crowea is for people who are feeling ‘not quite right’ with themselves and are just a little out of balance. It is an excellent Essence for people not sure of what it is they are feeling, and is great for worry. It is for those who always have something to worry about, without having specific fears. This purple flower has five petals with a prominent raised centre. Five in numerology relates to the emotional centre and the integration of emotions.
Fringed Violet is for treating damage to the aura where there has been shock, grief or distress e.g. from abuse or assault. This remedy maintains psychic protection and is excellent for people who are drained by others or those who unconsciously absorb the physical and emotional imbalances of others. It releases shock from the body. When used in combination with Flannel Flower or Wisteria it is beneficial for those who have suffered abuse.
Sundew is for people who are vague and indecisive and do not pay attention to detail. For those who tend to ‘split off’ easily, especially when there is work to be done. This Essence will keep them focused in the present and reduces procrastination. It is for those who tend to be vague, dreamy or drawn to drugs.
For more information visit: http://ausflowers.com.au/
Or to have a Bespoke Bush Flower Remedy made for you contact Trish Jones on: 0409548550
St John’s Wort – possibly the most well-known herb for depression and anxiety due amount of studies conducted to determine its efficacy and mode of action. St John’s Wort contains Hypericin & hyperforin, which are two of the active ingredients, known to act in the same way that synthetic anti-depressants do, to increase levels of serotonin, noradrenalin and dopamine. It must be mentioned that St John’s Wort interacts with a wide range of medication so it’s important to consult a well informed health care practitioner before starting this herb.
Rhodiola – is considered an adaptogenic herb, meaning that it acts in non-specific ways to increase resistance to stress. Rhodiola is known to be particularly useful for fatigue, mental fog, trouble concentrating, low energy and, perhaps, mild depression.
Ashwagandha has shown effectiveness in reducing stress hormones, promoting intellect and memory. Ashwagandha has also shown effectiveness in helping with bipolar disorder, by improving auditory-verbal working memory), a measure of reaction time, and a measure of social cognition. Others studies have shown that Ashwagandha is effective as an anxiolytic, as a mood stabilizer, and in treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Cortisol is the stress hormone that goes up when we are stressed out. Cortisol also creates longer-term fatigue and mental fogginess, and brain structures for emotion and memory are damaged when cortisol is too high. A treatment group in a randomized, double blind study of Ashwagandha compared to placebo demonstrated that the blood cortisol levels after 60 days showed a marked decrease, and the side effects were minimal. Usage of ashwagandha was shown to be a good protector against stress.
Chamomile is particularly beneficial for those dealing with both depression and anxiety.
There are two main species of chamomile used medicinally, German or wild chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Roman or English chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile).
German chamomile is more commonly used but both offer very similar health benefits.
Maca has been traditionally used in Peru to treat depression in men and women and to stimulate libido.
In a 2008 study published in the journal Menopause, researchers found that maca helps reduce anxiety and depression symptoms in women with menopause.
Lemon Balm Formally known as Melissa Officinalis, lemon balm improves appetite, aids in healthy sleep, and can cure the inflammation or discomfort that often accompanies depression.  It is known to uplift mood, while still allowing enough peace and relaxation to induce healthy sleep.
Brodie Hearnden is a Western Herbal Medicine practitioner at The Garden and is extremely passionate about assisting people with mental health concerns.
There are several compelling arguments for the use of hypnosis in the treatment of depression. For example, addressing numerous depressive symptoms (including insomnia and rumination), and modifying patterns of self-organization (such as cognitive, response, attentional, and perceptual styles) that contribute to depressed thinking and mood (Yapko, 2006). Other approaches to depression using hypnosis have emphasized retrieval of past positive experiences (Lankton, 2006), the development of coping skills (Burns, 2006), augmenting interpersonal psychotherapy (Lynn, Matthews, Farioli, Rhue, & Mellinger, 2006), and enhancing cognitive behavior therapy (Alladin, 2006; Lynn, Matthews, Farioli, Rhue, & Mellinger, 2006).
Thought Field Therapy
“Thought Field Therapy (TFT) uses acupressure points on the upper part of the body, which are lightly tapped on with the index and middle fingers in a certain sequence which acts as a code to break down emotional disturbances in the mind and body.
Tapping is used to address problems in any area of your life in a very short time. It allows us to resolve the fundamental cause and eliminate years of emotional baggage that has been limiting your life.
Balancing the body’s energy system and changing your belief systems can have life-changing effects, stopping years of self-sabotage and possibly chronic pain that may be attached to negative emotions, to bring about a life of joy and fulfillment.
TFT Tapping Therapy is a highly effective therapy that often works when nothing else will… It is used for anxiety, phobias, PTSD and trauma, relationships, love pain, anger, grief, and much more.” Jo Pascoe, Founder of The B.E.S.T. Therapy
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is considered a “solution orientated” psychotherapy designed to help patients learn skills that will improve their quality of life and appears to be the most commonly mentioned type of counselling, or ‘talk therapy’ for the treatment of depression and anxiety.
Cognitive Therapy helps people recognise the negative automatic thoughts that come into consciousness when a person feels at their worse. It then disputes the negative thoughts by focusing on contrary evidence. The next step is to teach patients different explanations to dispute the negative automatic thoughts, then how to avoid the constant churning of thoughts in the mind resulting in better control of thoughts. After questioning the negative thoughts and beliefs that are causing the depression, they are replaced with empowering positive thoughts and beliefs.
For many years Bev McInnes from Insight House Counselling has been working with individuals and families in the area’s of Trauma Counselling, specifically in Sexual, Emotional and Physical Abuse as well as addictions, anxiety, depression and anger resolution. Bev creates a safe place to express yourself, facilitating the ability for you to gain insight from your past and how it affects your present and giving you the skills to create a brighter future.
Diet & Nutrition
B Vitamins – All B vitamins play an essential role in brain function, mood and energy levels. A deficiency in any B vitamin, particularly B12, B6 or Folate is linked to depression. The important thing to remember wiht B vitamins is that they need to be taken together, in a B complex to be effectively used by the body.
Tryptophan is an essential Amino Acid and is the precursor to Serotonin so a diet high in tryptophan is often recommended by Naturopaths and Nutritionists, these foods include Tryptophan is present in most protein-based foods and is particularly plentiful in oats, dried dates, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, red meat, eggs, fish, poultry, sesame, chickpeas, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, buckwheat, spirulina, and peanuts.
Phenylalanine is the precursor to Tyrosine & Tyrosine is used by the body to make some of our most neurotransmitters and adrenaline, thyroid hormones and some estrogens. Both of these Amino acids have been shown to be effective in the treatment of depression when used in conjunction with a holistic treatment regime and consultation with a health practitioner.
Vitamin D and sunshine! Sun exposure is the primary way in which our body obtains Vitamin D (producing it when the skin is exposed to UVB rays) but with the high rates of skin cancer, we’re quote often covering up, or working long hours that don’t allow enough time for our daily dose of vitamin D. We don’t actually need to be in the sun for very long to produce Vitamin D, but it does need to be bare skin exposure. If this isn’t possible for you, taking a supplement of Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is the next best thing (if you are deficient) because unfortunately food doesn’t contain enough Vitamin D to correct a deficiency. If you are unsure, your Vitamin D levels can be checked by asking your GP for a blood test.
Seven foods to avoid to lift your mood
There are many lifestyle and nutritional factors that cause, or exacerbate low Serotonin levels including cigarette smoking, alcohol, sugar intake, too much protein, and a range of nutrient deficiencies.
If you feel you would like to make some alterations to your diet to help your mood and energy levels, try keeping a food diary for a fortnight to track what you eat and how you feel on a daily basis. Look out for any patterns and seek the guidance of a Nutritionist if you’re unsure about what to do next – here’s some general information to help you get started:
- Refined sugar
A diet high in refined sugars (lollies, chocolates, soft drinks) will cause havoc on blood glucose, which has a dramatic effect on mood regulation and energy levels. While it can be very tempting to reach for that quick afternoon sugary pick-me-up, it’s going to have the opposite to desired effect in the long term and can cause ongoing issues.
- Artificial sweeteners
Aspartame has a direct effect on mood by blocking the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin and causing mood dips, headaches, and insomnia.
When consuming high-aspartame diets, participants had more irritable mood, exhibited more depression, and performed worse on spatial orientation tests.
- Processed Food
It is well known that people who suffer from depression tend to crave carbohydrates, so a group of researchers set out to look at the dynamic in reverse to see whether consuming refined carbs — a known driver of high blood sugar levels — raises depression risk among women with no recent history of mental illness. And it did!
Investigators reviewed nutrition and mental health records collected at 40 clinical centers across 24 states and the District of Columbia during a Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study.
None of the women had any history of substance abuse, depression or any other form of mental illness in the three years leading up to their enrolment in the study. The result: The more refined sugars consumed, the higher the blood sugar levels and the greater her risk for a bout of depression.
- Hydrogenated oils
As if I haven’t already eliminated everything you eat, here is one more. Stay away from the fried chicken, the fried cheese sticks, fried calamari, and, ouch, French fries. Anything that is cooked with hydrogenated oils and contains trans fats could potentially contribute to depression. Also watch out for saturated fats, found in animal products such as deli meats, high-fat dairy, butter, etc. They can clog arteries and prevent blood flow to the brain.
- Foods high in sodium
An excess of sodium can disrupt your neurological system, contributing to depression, and can interfere with immune system response, causing fatigue. Too much salt also leads to fluid retention and bloating.
Alcohol reduces Central Nervous System function which means information is not received properly by our senses, motor control is dramatically reduced as is our ability to think and act with full understanding and logic. Alcohol inhibits our ability to control emotions and exacerbates symptoms associated with depression.
The stimulant effect of caffeine can contribute to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety by having a detrimental effect on sleep patterns, increase heart rate and cause agitation and nervousness.
“Increased participation in exercise, sports and physical activities is strongly associated with decreased symptoms of anxiety, depression and malaise” Murray & Pizzorno
The Black Dog Institute says regular exercise may alleviate
symptoms of depression by:
• increasing energy levels
• improving sleep
• distracting from worries and rumination
• providing social support and reducing oneliness if exercise is done with other people
• increasing a sense of control and self-esteem, by allowing people to take an active role in their own wellbeing
The National Physical Activity Guidelines for aults and older Australians recommends:
• A minimum of 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise on most, preferably all, days of the week; An example of ‘moderate intensity’ exercise is brisk walking where a slight increase in breathing and heart rate is noticeable.
• Exercising for at least 10 minutes at a time – the 30 minutes total does not need to be continuous; Short sessions of different activities can be combined to make up a total of 30 minutes exercise or more each day.
• Being active in as many ways as possible each day (e.g. using the stairs instead of a lift).
But more often than not for people who feel depressed or anxious, exercising can be very difficult, so here’s some advice from the Mayo Clinic on how to get started — and stay motivated….
- Identify what you enjoy doing. Figure out what type of physical activities you’re most likely to do, and think about when and how you’d be most likely to follow through. For instance, would you be more likely to do some gardening in the evening, start your day with a jog, or go for a bike ride or play basketball with your children after school? Do what you enjoy to help you stick with it.
- Get your mental health professional’s support. Talk to your doctor or mental health professional for guidance and support. Discuss an exercise program or physical activity routine and how it fits into your overall treatment plan.
- Set reasonable goals. Your mission doesn’t have to be walking for an hour five days a week. Think realistically about what you may be able to do and begin gradually. Tailor your plan to your own needs and abilities rather than setting unrealistic guidelines that you’re unlikely to meet.
- Don’t think of exercise or physical activity as a chore. If exercise is just another “should” in your life that you don’t think you’re living up to, you’ll associate it with failure. Rather, look at your exercise or physical activity schedule the same way you look at your therapy sessions or medication — as one of the tools to help you get better.
- Analyze your barriers. Figure out what’s stopping you from being physically active or exercising. If you feel self-conscious, for instance, you may want to exercise at home. If you stick to goals better with a partner, find a friend to work out with or who enjoys the same physical activities that you do. If you don’t have money to spend on exercise gear, do something that’s cost-free, such as regular walking. If you think about what’s stopping you from being physically active or exercising, you can probably find an alternative solution.
- Prepare for setbacks and obstacles. Give yourself credit for every step in the right direction, no matter how small. If you skip exercise one day, that doesn’t mean you can’t maintain an exercise routine and might as well quit. Just try again the next day. Stick with it.
If you require immediate assistance please contact:
- Life Line – 131114 for crisis support and suicide prevention
- Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800 – 24/7 phone and online counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25.
For some excellent resources go to:
Black Dog Institute – a focus on research, education and training resources
Reach Out – online mental health organisation for young people and their parents
Smiling Mind – a 100% not-for-profit organisation that works to make mindfulness accessible to all
The Resilience Project – The Resilience Project delivers emotionally engaging programs to schools, sports clubs and businesses, providing practical, evidence-based, positive mental health strategies to build resilience and happiness.
HeadSpace – mental health support for people aged 12 to 25
PANDA – Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia
Some of the resources used to create this article…