24 May 1996

IF BLUES TURN BLACK

EVERYONE gets days when they feel the world is getting on top of them and, with the current BSE crisis, farmers have had a great deal to worry about lately. But when the blues become depression, and work and relationships are affected, it is time to seek help.

In the Borders area, which has many livestock farmers, the Borders Community NHS Trust has alerted general practitioners and mental health teams to the potential impact of the BSE crisis on farmers – and other authorities have followed its lead.

"Help is readily available within the health service and depression usually responds well to treatment," says Ian Pullen, consultant psychiatrist at Dingleton Hospital, Melrose. He recommends talking to family and friends about anxieties, as this can be very helpful or if people feel they cannot confide in anyone they know, a phone call to the Samaritans* can be the answer. But where depression has a stronger hold it is time to visit your GP.

The characteristic symptoms of depression are:

lA loss of interest and enjoyment in life.

lA lack of drive and motivation that makes even simple tasks and decisions difficult or impossible.

lUtter fatigue.

lAgitation and restlessness.

lLoss or gain in appetite, with loss or gain in weight.

lSleeplessness or excessive sleeping.

lLoss of outward affection, loss of interest in sex.

lLoss of confidence, avoiding meeting people.

lIrritability.

lFeeling useless, inadequate, bad, helpless and hopeless.

lFeeling worse at a particular time of day, usually in the mornings.

lThoughts of suicide: These are very common when suffering depression and are much better admitted than covered up, as they are a certain sign that help is needed – and help is then very likely to be successful.

Depression is a common experience and farmers can be extremely vulnerable to it. It is also very treatable, so if you recognise the symptoms in yourself or a member of your family, bring your anxieties into the open and seek help. TG

*Samaritans: Phone 0345-909090 – calls are charged at local rates.