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Health: When feeling low can be deadly serious.

DEPRESSION can be as devastating as alcoholism and affects thousands of victims every year across Ireland. Most people suffer from feelings of depression at some time in their life, generally during a family, personal or work crisis, but it can progress from feeling low to severe depressive disorders which require medical or psychiatric treatment.

Last year more than 10,000 people were admitted to Irish psychiatric hospitals with a depressive illness while 200,000 are currently suffering from depression in Ireland.

Many people try to hide their depression and do not seek help, and nearly 500 people take their own lives each year as a result of depression. That gruesomes toll continues to rise every year north and south.

There are various forms of depression: They are classified as reactive, endogenous or manic.

Reactive depression is an extension of the normal upset feeling following an unhappy event such as the death of a close relative or friend, marriage break up or loss of employment. Typically a sufferer will feel low, anxious and often angry and irritable.

It generally occurs after a major setback - but there are certain people who are particularly prone to the complaint and find even minor misfortunes intolerable.

In such situations the individual's personality or early experiences of life render them particularly vulnerable to disappointments.

When a person suffers a bout of endogenous depression this is primarily a chemical or biological complaint which is often provoked by traumatic events.

The symptoms tend to include fatigue, feelings of sadness, anxiety and despair, impaired concentration and memory as well as lethargy.

People with the condition are also likely to experience social withdrawal, sleep disturbance, eating disturbance and even suicidal thoughts. It can sometimes be referred to as a so-called uni-polar depression with the risk more likely where there is a high rate of depression amongst the patient's relatives.

SUFFERERS of manic or bi-polar depression have identical symptoms with those of endogenous depression, apart from the unique spells of elation or mania with which it alternates.

Normally elation is considered a pleasurable, experience - but prolonged bouts of such elation can often have a devastating effect on a person's life. Likely symptoms include increased energy with hyperactivity, talkativeness, racing thoughts, grandiose plans with impaired judgment, irritability, overspending and limited need for sleep.

Around half of those who have had a one-off episode of manic depression may have a recurrence and for those who have had a number of episodes, the risk of further recurrence is greater still.

Around one per cent of the general population will develop this disorder at some stage in their life, generally between the teenage years and the early forties.

There are various treatments for depression available with groups such as Aware, which has offices across the country and is at the forefront of treatment, research and education.

Aware is a voluntary organisation formed in 1985 by a group of interested patients, relatives and mental health professionals, whose aims are to assist that section of the population whose lives are directly affected by depression.

Aware chairman Dr Patrick McKeown explained: "While there have been extensive developments made through the years in the treatment of depression through both psychotherapy and medication, there are still many patients who do not respond to any of the treatments currently available.

"The organisation actively seeks to increase understanding of this widespread problem.

"Aware has been working energetically to bring support to sufferers of depression and their families and to dispel the myths and misunderstandings of this devastating illness.

"It is vital to develop alternative treatments and so an extensive research programme has been launched by members of Aware."

To help raise public awareness of the problem, Aware has already organised lectures and printed material.

"It has also selected September 10 to 12 as daisy Days when Anemone and Crocus flower bulbs will be sold nationwide to raise funds for the organisation.

HELPLINES

AWARE: Dublin 01- 6791711 Londonderry 01504-260602
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Doherty, Amanda
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 19, 1998
Words:656
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