The Executive Director of The Black Dog Institute, Professor Gordon Parker, advises people experiencing symptoms of depression to seek help as soon as possible. “The sooner people get the right diagnosis and a rational plan the better.”
JOHN KONRADS (Former Olympic swimmer): Well my depression was linked to anxiety. I was almost 60 and I didn’t have enough money to retire. And here I was the Olympic hero, Chief Executive of a fancy French cosmetic company, flying first class, dining at the best restaurants and secondaries at my beck and call and all of a sudden I was supposed to be rich and comfortable by now and I wasn’t.
PETER SCHAECKEN (Consumer consultant, Sydney South West Area, Mental Health Service, Eastern Zone): By the year 2020, depression will be the second highest co-morbid disease, behind heart disease as an illness.
JOHN O’NEIL (President State Council St Vincent de Paul Society NSW): Depression is a serious mental illness sometimes it lasts for many years, sometimes it lasts a lifetime but sometimes it’s only temporary, like someone who’s lost someone very close to them.
PROFESSOR GORDON PARKER (Executive Director at The Black Dog Institute): Well there are differing types of depression and the very biological types of depression, meaning the diseases like diabetes we call psychotic depression or melancholic depression and here the key feature is what we call psychomotor disturbance. And the person is either showing retardation where they’re actually slumped with their posture, they lose the light in their eyes, the sparks gone it’s like fish eyes.
JOHN KONRADS: That heavy cloud almost like moving around in putty, you’re tired when you wake up in the morning, you’re tired at midday, you’re tired in the evening and yet you can’t sleep and you’re tired in the morning. Everything’s like you’re walking in glue.
PROFESSOR PARKER: They don’t speak very much, and when they speak they speak slowly and monosyllabically. They pause between a question and an answer or before doing something. And they’ll say to you if they can describe it, “When I’m in that state it is just impossible to get out of bed, have a bath or a shower”.
JOHN KONRADS: And it’s difficult to understand that you can look at that sky and it’s not blue. It’s blue, sort of blue, of yeah I can recognise the colour blue but I can’t see it. I can’t see the sun shining; I can’t hear the birds chirping. I’m just under this thick fog of misery.
MYREE HARRIS RSJ (President, NSW State Advisory Committee on Mental Health): But it’s known that events such as bereavement or divorce or failure, business failure, bankruptcy, things like that can trigger depression in people and do.
PROFESSOR PARKER: And some of these people, as I said can be psychotic and they can be mistaken for schizophrenia or severe retardation, people can think oh its dementia. These people are in great peril. They’re often not looking after themselves, frequently psychotic, their commonly suicidal, this is a very treatable set of conditions, but these people need to be protected against the risk of misadventure and suicide.
PETER SCHAECKEN: Most people who have depression will make a recovery. There are lots of treatments for depression.
PROFESSOR PARKER: The sooner people get the right diagnosis and a rational plan the better.
JOHN KONRADS: I don’t expect people without depression to understand how it feels, but you don t have to understand how it feels, give them the benefit of the doubt.