Depression Help

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Coping with depression: help is out there

All of us are getting a bit edgy and irritable, and there may be some real emotional problems that you or someone close you need to cope with. If so, shut your eyes, take a few deep breaths and head out to the Web. You can find a lot of help for the February blahs and other psychological conditions. There are Web sites with information, others where you can ask questions, support groups and more.

Mental Health Net (www.cmhc.com) wants to become the Home Depot of trauma, and is doing a pretty good job as one of the Web's major resources for psychology.

Mental Health Net has four major categories: disorders, treatments, professional resources and the reading room. You can click on a disorder - depression, for example - and you find several subheadings: Symptoms, Treatment and Online Resources, Organizations, and Online Support. The symptoms descriptions are concise and somewhat dry condensed versions from the American Psychiatric Association, but they give you the general idea. Check out the symptoms for depression and see if you don't have at least one or two on the long list.

Each disorder has an excellent links page where you find good descriptions of dozens of Web sites concerned with that disorder. The sites are rated individually by Mental Health Net, and separately by readers, and you can add your vote for any site. Great job.

Mental Health Net even has a psychology-jokes department. This is a good addition to any Web site that deals with difficulties of the psyche. There's no tonic like laughter. Here's one:

Question: How do you tell the difference between the staff and the inmates at a psychiatric hospital?

Answer: The patients get better and leave.

Self-Help and Psychology Magazine (www.cy bertowers.com/ selfhelp) is a professional publication on the Web with great features. There are free online courses on topics such as "Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual People: Myths and Realities." There are articles on a wide range of emotional and psychological topics. There are also contests, question-and-answer features and more that make the site worth a visit.

If you're interested in psychoanalysis and want to understand the history of the process, you should go to the source: Sigmund Freud. A site called Sigmund Freud and the Freud Archives (http:// plaza.interport.net/nypsan/freudarc.html) offers a comprehensive collection of Freud's writings and well-selected links.

Many Usenet newsgroups are devoted to psychological problems, and the format is a perfect fit - it's an instant worldwide support group. Contributors are anonymous. They can all relate to each other's problems. They give helpful information, such as what to do about the side-effects of medication.

The best place to find out about newsgroups for psychological problems is a Web site called Support Group.com (www.support- group.com). The site began as a local bulletin board in Florida discussing Graves disease. The board opened up to contacts on the Internet, and the idea blossomed.

There is online chat about all types of health problems, and art and poetry submitted by users. But the core of the site is a directory of hundreds of diseases and health concerns. Most are physical, but a full range of emotional and psychological ailments is also included.

There is a page for each ailment. Support.com has set up an online bulletin board, and more importantly has a full set of good Web links devoted to each malady. This is also the place to find links to the newsgroups that deal with topics like depression (seven newsgroups) obsessive-compulsive disorder (two newsgroups) and others. The site is thorough.

The dangers of relying too much on a box for emotional help are obvious, whether the box be a TV, radio or computer. There are psychologists purveying advice everywhere these days. Some of it may be helpful for people with basic problems. But when February blahs degenerate into serious psychological problems, clicking through a few Web sites is not going to come up with the solution, and professionals should be consulted.

Still, professional healers and sufferers alike are using the Web to set up beacons for others who may need help. And all that can't hurt for people who are feeling a bit cold and lonely these days.

Doctor doubts depression help methods

Hope and positive emotion are potent healers many doctors forget to prescribe, says a well-known American author and medical professor.

One of the most powerful weapons against disease is thereby being destroyed, Dr. Norman Cousins told an Edmonton crowd Saturday.

Cousins says most medical training virtually ignores the human body's healing system. Doctors are trained to treat disease, but not the emotions that go with it.

In essence, he says, they end up treating "half the patient."

Combating illness should be a partnership between patient and doctor, says Cousins.

Medical science must begin to acknowledge the vast powers in the human body, enabling "the best that medical science can offer and the best the human being can offer (to) come into play."

Cousins, author of several books including Anatomy of an Illness and Healing Heart, says clinical research has shown emotions such as depression have a marked and measurable physiological effect on the body.

He began to study such effects about 11 years ago, after noting many patients' illnesses appeared to deepen once diagnosed, especially with very serious conditions such as cancer and heart disease.

Research and experience with more than 1,100 patients has convinced him the powers of the human body and a patient's perception of an illness are crucial healing factors when used in concert with technology.

Cousins told the gathering of a 14-month study involving 150 malignant melanoma patients. Along with traditional treatment, half received treatment to combat depression, help them understand their illness and teach them about the body's tremendous self- healing powers.

In every case, says Cousins, "hope translated into improved conditions."

Legal considerations have made doctors, especially in the U.S., so concerned about informing patients of worst-case scenarios that they often forget to deliver hope with their diagnosis, says Cousins.

The fact that doctors aren't trained to communicate effectively with patients aggravates the problem, he says, as does the tendency in medicine to view the human body as a machine.

"It's important to tell patients the truth . . . but it's also important to present a diagnosis as a challenge rather than a death sentence.

"If a doctor is going to destroy hope, why treat a patient at all? He's destroying one of the most valuable physiological weapons of all."

Inspiring stories on human condition

Novels, although fiction, can sometimes provide a surprising amount of insight into the human condition. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, by Mark Haddon, is one of those books. The story is told through the eyes of a young autistic boy named Christopher, who is accused of killing the neighbour's dog. Christopher decides the only way he can prove his innocence is by finding the culprit. During his investigations, he discovers a startling family secret that threatens to push him over the edge. The book is his record of the conversations and events that occur.

The author's amazing ability to illustrate the intricate workings of the autistic mind is remarkable and will help the reader to understand some of the bizarre behaviours this condition often elicits. Although the story is fiction, Haddon writes from many years of experience working with autistic children.

For even greater insight into autism, readers should try Nobody, Nowhere, a personal memoir by Donna Williams. This amazing autobiography is written by an autistic woman who describes her attempts to come to terms with her condition. It is an incredible story of courage and inspiration. Readers won't want to miss Donna's sequel, Somebody, Somewhere, which chronicles her painful journey from her world of isolation into the real world.

Many readers will be familiar with the popular author Danielle Steele, who is known for her novels of romance and suspense. Danielle's son, Nick, a brilliant and charming young man, suffered from manic depression. Help came too late for Nick, who took his own life at the age of 19. This is Danielle's story of his courageous struggle, including excerpts from the remarkable journal Nick kept.

First Person Plural, by Cameron West, is a spell-binding story of a happily married businessman in his thirties who suddenly begins to feel like he is possessed. This account provides rare and unprecedented insight into the mind of a multiple personality and his efforts to heal his fragmented mind and damaged spirit.

The Magic Daughter: a Memoir of Living With Multiple Personality Disorder, by Jane Phillips, is another personal narrative. The author is a college professor who struggled with this tragic disorder while trying to hold down a job live her life.

Depression help offered

Depression is a common mental health problem, affecting as many as one in every four people at some point in their lifetime.

"It can be a natural response when we are faced with problems that at the moment seem insurmountable," adds CVMHAS.

"Depression, however, becomes a problem when it dominates our thoughts, interferes with our ability to cope with the demands of ordinary life, and continues for any length of time."

The good news, CVMHAS notes, is that it is a treatable illness. Medications, such as antidepressants, can be a useful treatment option.

"In addition, counselling and lifestyle change are highly effective treatments. With treatment, up to 80 per cent of people recover completely within weeks or months, and return to their normal activities and lifestyle."

People are invited to learn more at a presentation by Elaine Smith, RPN, RN, Mental Health Nurse, at Comox Valley Mental Health and Addiction Services.