Helping people to live life their way

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1 Occupational therapy and Depression Occupational therapy can help people Occupational therapy

2 Dealing Depression is a common illness that affects people of all ages. Depression may occur for no apparent reason, or may be the result of a stressful life event, for example, getting divorced, becoming a parent, having a physical health problem, being a carer or experiencing a bereavement. It is important to recognise the symptoms and not think that you can just snap out of it or that you need to pull yourself together. Depression is an illness like any other and talking to your GP will help establish how much help you need. Most people will experience feelings of sadness, while others are more profoundly affected with very low mood, feelings of hopelessness and exhaustion, and not wanting to carry on with life. Depression can affect anyone. Angelina Jolie, Sir Winston Churchill, Dame Kelly Holmes and Stephen Fry have all experienced depression and are good examples of how it is possible to live well despite having this condition. A common sign of depression is that people can feel unable to carry out everyday activities as they find them overwhelming. They may not care about their personal appearance or find they are unable to cope with their family. They may struggle to get to work or lose interest in participating in social activities. Sometimes, people with depression can become overactive as they try to compensate for their feelings of despair. Effective treatment is available; the amount and type of treatment will depend upon the severity of the depression. For example, people with mild symptoms often improve with self-help techniques, those with moderate depression can be supported via their GP, and those with more severe symptoms may need specialist input from mental health services. Medication and talking therapies are commonly used to treat depression. people Occupational therapists can help individuals affected by depression to find the right balance of work, rest and play, which is essential to people s health and wellbeing. Occupational therapists will work with individuals to help them to find ways of managing the everyday activities that they need or want to do. They may review medical and social factors that can have a detrimental effect on mental health, such as accommodation, benefits and physical health needs. The table opposite provides further information.

3 Depression is a common illness that affects people of all ages. Depression may occur for no apparent reason, or may be the result of a stressful life event, for example, getting divorced, becoming a parent, having a physical health problem, being a carer or experiencing a bereavement. It is important to recognise the symptoms and not think that you can just snap out of it or that you need to pull yourself together. Depression is an illness like any other and talking to your GP will help establish how much help you need. Most people will experience feelings of sadness, while others are more profoundly affected with very low mood, feelings of hopelessness and exhaustion, and not wanting to carry on with life. Depression can affect anyone. Angelina Jolie, Sir Winston Churchill, Dame Kelly Holmes and Stephen Fry have all experienced depression and are good examples of how it is possible to live well despite having this condition. A common sign of depression is that people can feel unable to carry out everyday activities as they find them overwhelming. They may not care about their personal appearance or find they are unable to cope with their family. They may struggle to get to work or lose interest in participating in social activities. Sometimes, people with depression can become overactive as they try to compensate for their feelings of despair. Effective treatment is available; the amount and type of treatment will depend upon the severity of the depression. For example, people with mild symptoms often improve with self-help techniques, those with moderate depression can be supported via their GP, and those with more severe symptoms may need specialist input from mental health services. Medication and talking therapies are commonly used to treat depression. people Occupational therapists can help individuals affected by depression to find the right balance of work, rest and play, which is essential to people s health and wellbeing. Occupational therapists will work with individuals to help them to find ways of managing the everyday activities that they need or want to do. They may review medical and social factors that can have a detrimental effect on mental health, such as accommodation, benefits and physical health needs. The table opposite provides further information. Occupational therapists can help people tackle the effects of depression Depressed thinking People will think in negative patterns, becoming preoccupied with problems and feeling they deserve to be punished. Habitual patterns of thinking may include seeing only the worst possible outcomes, discounting the positive, black and white thinking and negatively labelling themselves, such as saying I m really stupid. to change these thinking styles by teaching people to challenge their negative thoughts. For example, an occupational therapist can demonstrate how individuals can use everyday activities to test and break their unhelpful thought patterns. Some occupational therapists will use talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy to address these depressive thoughts. Depressed feelings People can feel hopeless, overwhelmed and irritable. They can get little enjoyment from life and lack confidence. Alternatively, they may feel numb and apathetic. These feelings can result in crying more than usual or wanting to hide their emotions from others. They can start to withdraw socially as they find it difficult to express themselves to friends and family. people regain hope and confidence by teaching them coping strategies to deal with their negative feelings. This may include relaxation or mindfulness techniques to help people to explore and accept their difficult feelings. An occupational therapist can also help people to develop their interpersonal and communication skills to express their feelings appropriately. Behaviour changes People will often carry out fewer activities than usual. They can find it hard to get out of bed, go to work and cope with work pressures. They can experience difficulties with their memory and may stop paying attention to necessary tasks such as taking care of personal hygiene, paying bills, or simply participating in enjoyable activities such as gardening. by using behavioural activation and activity scheduling to increase participation and give people a sense of responsibility, achievement, self-worth or pleasure. Techniques such as breaking down tasks into manageable steps, goal setting and problem solving to bump start people back into action will be suggested by an occupational therapist. Occupational therapists can also negotiate return to work schedules, should the individual request this, and develop strategies to enable people to continue working; work colleagues can also be given advice to understand the effects experienced by their co-workers who have this condition. Physical changes People generally experience disturbed sleep, especially waking up early, although some will sleep more than usual. Eating patterns can change, which may result in weight gain or loss. People can also lose interest in sex, experience fatigue, and feel aches and pains that seem to have no physical cause. Sleep deprivation and inappropriate food intake can make depressed moods feel far worse. deal with these symptoms by reviewing diet patterns, alcohol and caffeine consumption, exercise and bedtime routines. Fatigue, aches and pains can lead to anxiety and an occupational therapist can teach various techniques to reduce anxiety levels. Dealing

4 An occupational therapist can: Help people with work-related stress to re-prioritise tasks to improve their work-life balance Guide children with co-ordination disorders to develop new skills, to help them remain in school and reach their full potential Support older people to remain independent, living in their home for longer by providing adaptations and equipment and providing strategies for managing fatigue Assist people to return, or remain in work Enable people with long term conditions (such as Parkinson s, Multiple Sclerosis or Stroke) to manage their condition and remain independent. How to contact an occupational therapist Ask your GP to refer you to an occupational therapist Contact the social services department of your local council to arrange an occupational therapist home visit * Alternatively, you can see an occupational therapist privately. Visit for a list of independent practitioners. * Social work departments in Scotland Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland To find an occupational therapist visit For leisure, learning, living or working Occupational Therapy The College of Occupational Therapists The professional body for occupational therapy Borough High Street, London SE1 1LB Tel: The College of Occupational Therapists Limited is a registered charity in England and Wales (No ) and in Scotland (No. SCO39573)

5 Occupational therapy and Depression For leisure, learning, living or working Occupational Therapy CON 0014

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