Depression and stress-related illnesses can often make an individual feel isolated and not knowing who to turn to for reassurance and guidance.
But here on the Island help is at hand, and last year alone more than 3,100 residents used the invaluable services of the Primary Care Mental Health team, whose headquarters are at the Gables, Halberry Lane, Newport, adjacent to the Earl Mountbatten Hospice.
Whether it’s depression, stress, anxiety, low self esteem, health worries or trauma, a dedicated 20-strong group of highly trained professionals are on hand to put patients back on the road to recovery.
Shelley Weir is interim Service Lead for Primary Care Mental Health team on the Island, and explained what can cause such problems and the relatively easy procedure to find help when it is most needed.
Shelley said: “Depression is a term that is used to cover a lot of difficulties. It’s not just about one thing; some people might say they are depressed when they are feeling anxious or stressed. Sometimes people can be more prone to depression through their life experiences, and for some it can be a reaction to life’s circumstances.
“It can come on quite quickly if you have a major event or trauma, or it can build up slowly. There is not one cause for it, and it can be quite complex in its development.
“Some people might not know they are depressed, stressed or anxious; they just lose pleasure in doing things; they lose their confidence and stop doing things they would normally do, and that makes the situation worse. It becomes a vicious circle.
“We live in a high pressure society. With young people it may be hard to get on the housing ladder; jobs aren’t plentiful and money is tight – that is one side of it. But if you have everything in the world you can still feel stressed. We see patients from age 18, or close to their 18th birthday, and have no upper age limit. I think the eldest person we have seen was about 95.”
Initially someone sensing they are struggling with such difficulties needs only to make an appointment with their GP, who will provide them with a Primary Care Mental Health Service leaflet, detailing what help is available. Then a simple phone call can set up an appointment, either at The Gables, or often at their own surgery or health centre.
Shelley explained: “ On the Island we would want to get people in at the level where the problem is just starting, before it begins to spiral. When patients are given a leaflet, it is purely up to them to decide whether they want to ring us to make an appointment, because it is a big step to face up to people and discuss how they are feeling. If they decide they want some help, then they only have to ring in and we make an appointment for them for an initial assessment.
“A patient will come and have an assessment with one of our Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners (PWP) which lasts about 45 minutes. If they don’t need intensive treatment we can offer support with guided self-help and low level therapy of about eight sessions.
“We also run Stress Control workshops, which is a six-week course on how to manage anxiety and depression, which has been well accepted, and can be delivered to up to 30 people at a time.
“For someone who is moderately to severely anxious or depressed we normally do up to 20 sessions with them with a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist (CBT), who are highly trained professionals. It is usually group work, which some patients to not like, but we try to show them that it can be so rewarding, because many suddenly realise that they are not alone. People often try to hide it because they feel a sense of shame, but quite wrongly!”
Shelley continued: “For severe depression medication is really good, but there is no magic pill. Evidence suggests anti-depression medications along with talking therapy is the most effective way forward. We have good success rates; we have been able to transform people’s lives, giving back their confidence and giving them hope. It can be hard work, but I have 29 years experience, and know how people can get better from very difficult circumstances.
“Last year we saw 3,155 Island people, so virtually everyone on the Island will know someone who has been to our service. If you feel you need help, then help is here. No one will judge you; we are all human, and part of the human condition is being stressed because it is a very stressful world that we live in.
“There is also telephone and computer on-line therapy available for those who find it difficult to travel; we try to be as flexible as possible in what we offer. There is so much to bombard us; the internet is good, but there is a lot of false information out there, so it is best to come to the experts for advice and help.”