Help for depression with Prof Ian Hickie, AM

Words by Michelle Sparkes

More than just feeling down, clinical depression is a serious mental health condition that affects the way people feel, think, and react to general daily activities, such as eating, sleeping, or working.

In Australia one-in-seven people will experience clinical depression in their lifetime and globally the number is one-in-five.

Predicted to be the second leading cause of world disability by 2020, and the largest contributor to disease burden by 2030, clinical depression (also known as Major Depressive Disorder or MDD) is a complex disorder that occurs more commonly within families, and typically results from a combination of both genetic and environmental influences.

Right now in Australia leading researchers are investigating the genetic factors that contribute to clinical depression in order to tailor treatments that are effective for individuals. If you are aged 18+ and have been treated (or are currently being treated) for clinical depression you can help by taking part in the genetics of depression study. Details below.

Today I had the pleasure of speaking with Prof Ian Hickie AM about depression, the genetics of depression study, the link between depression and anxiety, the relationship between depression, anxiety and eating disorders, and the protective factors so relevant for all of us as we navigate together the terrain of 21st century living.

Prof Hickie had so many good things to say, among them:-

The most important protective factor in promoting and supporting good mental health is social connection. “We all need quality relationships; people in our lives that we have real, meaningful connections with, ” says Prof Hickie.

Physical activity and managing wake/sleep cycles are additionally important. Psychological strategies, relaxation, mindfulness and yoga can all be helpful but they don’t work equally well for all of us. “What’s important,” says Prof Hickie, “is thinking about what personally works best for us.”

Having a better understanding of ourselves is vital but so too is reflecting on how do we all cope together.

Re-establishing the value of connections when they’re not formally organised by church and community groups or sporting clubs is important. Taking the time and effort to do this. For young people this is an issue.

“You need connections at all stages of your life,” says Prof Hickie, “but you particularly need rich connections when you’re young. You need to see different role models, you need to see how different people cope, you need to have the opportunity to learn from many different people. So these are big issues for us. How do we do this well in the modern era?”

The adverse effects of not doing this well he says is mainly played out in our younger people.

“They’re the ones mostly affected. We’re seeing worrying trends in self harm and suicide, particularly at the moment in young women, which suggests loss of connection and some additional pressures. So it’s not just a question of how we cope on our own but together. How do we best cope together? I think that’s really one of the most important sets of issues.”

Listen to the full interview here.

To learn more, or to register for the study:

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