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Planning Retirement Online

Relationships - 21

It could be you.... 

Maggi Stamp, LaterLife's Relationship Counsellor

Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor for Relate and in private practice, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet in later life.

For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person's problems unless you have sent one in to be answered, but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years.  

You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.

Depression and the family -Part 1

Now the winter days are short, the nights are long, the weather is cold, damp and dreary. This is a time when, for some, life gets harder and harder.

We all know someone who suffers or has suffered in the past from depression, and many of us have experienced it ourselves at sometime in our lives. One in five people will have depression at some point in their lives. This of course, is not the true number of those affected, as anyone close to a depressed person - family friends, partners, colleagues - are also deeply troubled by it.

"We have 7,000 members and take 40,000 enquiries a year", says Alison Lawrence, Communications Officer for Depression Alliance, a leading UK charity for those affected by depression. The charity  offers information, support and understanding. Says Alison, "Along with treating cancer and heart disease, depression is now a Government priority and by the year 2020, it will be the second biggest health burden."

There are many triggers for depression.  For some, it is the dark days of winter that creates a condition known as SAD – helped by brighter lighting in the home. But more usually, it is a disturbing experience in the past, a bad relationship, changes which have been difficult to deal with, some kind of loss such as a death of someone close, divorce, redundancy, friends or children moving away that trigger depression.  

A dull daily routine, loneliness, exam stress, lack of a rewarding social life or work problems can push someone to their limits. For women, depression  can be brought on by hormonal changes that cause mood swing, for instance at or around the menopause.  Premenstrual tension, pregnancy, childbirth, can bring hormone-induced depression.   

In young people, symptoms can be easily overlooked or dismissed by themselves and others as merely the pressures of moving into the adult world. Parents may see their teenagers as being lazy or awkward and not give them too much understanding. Yet for many, this is when the signs of a predisposition to depression first occur.

People living with someone who is depressed can sometimes get into a decidedly unhelpful frame of mind – unhelpful of course to all concerned. Lets look at a few examples.

  • He/she is in a bad mood and better snap out of it.

  • It shows there is a flaw in their character.

  • We have to keep it quiet or he/she will bring shame on the family.

  • They aren't ill, they've always been moody/lazy/weak.

Surely that can't be right? What is the best attitude to take?

  • A depressed person cannot ‘just snap out of it' any more than someone with diabetes or angina.

  • Nobody chooses to stay depressed, but it takes a great deal of strength and energy to work through it. When that is achieved it stands as a testimony to their strength of character rather than a flaw.

  • There is no more shame or stigma to depression than any other severe illness.

  • It can often be the observer's fear of the illness and sense of inadequacy that leads them to judge the sufferer as weak or lazy.

Like any other illness, if depression is left untreated it can get worse, so it is important for any sufferer to seek help, and for friends or relatives to encourage the sufferer to do so. Depression can be very successfully treated in a variety of ways. No-one needs to fight it alone.

Over the next few months I will be looking at a few of the triggers for depression, at the ways people react to and cope with the illness, the impact on family and in relationships and I will be discussing some of the support groups and treatment options.

I would very much like to hear about your feelings and experiences of living with depression in the family, either as the child of a depressed parent, partner of a sufferer, having depression yourself, or as parent of a depressed child.

Here  are some useful questions that I'd like to have answered by you… (And I will be supplying answers of my own too)

  • Was there an identifiable reason for the onset of the illness?

  • As a parent or partner of a depressed person, are there special ways of coping?

  • What impact does having depression yourself have on daily life?

  • Are there particular things that helped you or made it worse for you?

  • What was the most helpful or supportive thing for you or your family member?

  • What treatments have been offered or tried?

Although I won't be able to reply to you all individually, I would like to be able to use some of what you tell me in my column as this is a subject that touches most of us at one time or another. Please let me know if you are happy for me to use what you tell me and if you would prefer not to have your name included. I look forward to hearing from you on my usual laterlife e-mail address :

Tel: 0345 90 90 90 (24 hour continuous service)
E-mail: (replies within 24 hrs)
  (anonymous source e-mail service)   

Depression Alliance
Tel: 020 7633 0557 


You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.

To view previous articles  - see the Relationship Counselling & Advice Index page  



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