Thanks to increased Medicare rebates from 1st July 2023 – Gap payments are reduced and your share of the total payment is reduced

Definitive Strategies for Coping with Seasonal Depression 

As the grey clouds loom and the days grow shorter, many of us may feel a wave of melancholy setting in. This time of year can indeed be quite depressing for some. It can be tempting to curl up under the doona and wait for brighter, warmer days. However, it’s probably better to try to do something about it. Taking proactive steps, whether it’s seeking professional help through a GP Mental Health Care Plan to see a psychologist, spending time in nature, or immersing oneself in a good book, can make a significant difference. 

Finding Comfort in Literature 

Books can be a powerful tool in understanding and managing depression. Here are a few recommended reads that offer insight, support, and even a touch of humour: 

Journeys With the Black Dog – Inspirational Stories of Bringing Depression to Heel (Edited by Tessa Wigney, Kerrie Eyers, & Gordon Parker) As it says in the book’s Foreword: 

“The narratives in this collection arose from a writing competition organised by the Black Dog Institute, which called on people with mood disorders and their families to describe how they live with the black dog. The wealth of stories so benevolently shared contains precious insight and practical wisdom which help deepen our understanding of what is often a ‘silent disease’. Individuals chart their journey with depression—describing its forerunners, its onset and impact on their lives, and for many, their achievement of self-management, and in some cases even transcendence.” 

I Had a Black Dog (Written and illustrated by Matthew Johnstone) This small book is highly recommended for its accessible and engaging approach. Johnstone’s illustrations help to convey the experience of depression in a way that is quietly uplifting, sometimes amusing, and always insightful. As the author writes on his website: 

“I Had a Black Dog was my first book published in Australia in 2005. I like to think of it as a quietly uplifting, sometimes amusing, and insightful illustrated book on what it is to have depression and what can be learnt from it.” 

You can also get an idea of what the book is like by watching the video version created for the World Health Organization (WHO), which is one of their most viewed videos. 

Living with a Black Dog (By Matthew and Ainsley Johnstone) This follow-up to the earlier book is intended for those around the person with depression, rather than the person with depression themselves. It reminds me of an earlier book, Sharing the Load (1997) by Gwendolyne Smith. Both books emphasise the importance of caregivers looking after their own well-being. It’s similar to the analogy given by cabin staff on planes: if an oxygen mask is required, you need to put your own mask on first before helping others. 

A bit of a footnote: For the books by Matthew Johnstone, if you order them via his website, there is the option to get a handwritten inscription from the author. 

Additional Strategies for Coping with Seasonal Depression (Seasonal Affective Disorder) 

Apart from bibliotherapy, there are several other strategies that can help in managing seasonal depression: 

  • Seeking Professional Help: A GP Mental Health Care Plan can provide access to subsidised sessions with a psychologist. This professional support can be invaluable. 
  • Spending Time in Nature: Fresh air and natural light can significantly improve mood and overall mental health. 
  • Staying Active: Physical activity releases endorphins, which can help in reducing symptoms of depression. 
  • Connecting with Others: Talking to friends, family, or support groups can provide emotional support and reduce feelings of isolation. 

Overcoming Barriers to Getting Help 

In 2018, the Australian Psychological Society (APS) noted that young men often hesitate to seek help for mental health difficulties. An Australian study involving interviews and focus groups with 29 adolescent males with and without clinical anxiety symptoms identified several barriers to help-seeking: 

  • Stigma due to social norms of masculinity 
  • A preference for self-reliance 
  • Limited understanding about anxiety 
  • The feeling that discussing emotional problems with a health professional is too confronting 
  • Difficulty getting motivated to seek help 

Here are some additional barriers and responses to them: 

  • “I don’t feel comfortable talking about my inner thoughts and feelings.” A psychologist is trained to create a comfortable and confidential environment for discussing personal issues. 
  • “I can’t or don’t want to get time off work to see a psychologist.” Many practices, including us here at HPCCH, offer after-hours or weekend bookings, and Telehealth consultations, which can be convenient for FIFO workers. 
  • “It’s too expensive, and I can’t afford it.” While psychology services are not free, the gap payment is often less than the cost of a night out gambling or drinking, which many use to cope with stress or anxiety. 

An unwillingness to address mental health issues like depression and anxiety can lead to severe consequences, including high suicide rates, substance abuse, and risky behaviours.  

To the Point 

The bottom line is that taking proactive steps to address seasonal depression can make a significant difference in one’s mental health. By embracing healthier habits, seeking professional help, and connecting with supportive resources, we can combat the darker days and foster a sense of well-being and resilience. 

Recommended Posts