Depression’s social network: family and friends need support too

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By the team at Partners in Depression

Depression will affect about one in six Australians at some stage in their lifetime. It's a staggering statistic that is dwarfed only by the significant numbers of people who provide love, support and care to those experiencing the illness.

Just as depression can strike anyone at any time, any person of any age can find themselves within depression’s social network – supporting a friend, partner, child, parent, relative or colleague battling the "black dog".

The practical and emotional demands of supporting a loved one with depression can be overwhelming. Research shows that those in the support role are at greater risk of developing anxiety, depression and stress themselves. Carers may feel isolated as well as challenged to know where or who to go to for information and they are often reluctant to prioritise their own need for support.

Carers have also reported the positive aspects of their experiences, acknowledging a sense of purpose and strengthened connection with the person they care for. Some welcome opportunities to increase their knowledge about diagnosis, the health system and effective communication strategies.

Thanks to a NSW-based initiative achieving remarkable outcomes across Australia, such efforts have been made easier.

Partners in Depression is a six-week group education program for people who love, live with or care for someone experiencing depression. It focuses on developing knowledge about depression, its treatment and where and how to access services, and aims to improve the coping skills of those caring for someone with depression.

The program was developed by the Hunter Institute of Mental Health, a not-for-profit business unit of Hunter New England Health based in Newcastle, and funded through a national grant from the nib Foundation.

To date, the program has touched the lives of over 1,500 Australians supporting someone with depression. The positive feedback has been unanimous, with 98 per cent of participants saying they would recommend the program to others.

Stephanie, a mother of two supporting her husband, echoed the sentiments of many who have benefited from the program: "I felt like it was the first time I and others in the group had an outlet to share and be supported by people who were having the same experience. It was incredibly helpful to know we were not alone in trying to support our loved ones." Stephanie went away from the program with a renewed commitment to look after her own health and wellbeing.

Importantly, evaluation findings show that attending Partners in Depression can significantly reduce the level of psychological distress for participants. Connecting with others in a similar situation also proves to be an invaluable benefit of the program as it helps to reduce the isolation and stigma felt by family and friends in their caring role.

If you or someone you know loves, lives with, or cares for a person experiencing depression please visit our website to find a Partners in Depression group closest to you:

You can also check the Partners in Depression ads via YouTube:

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