If you haven’t already, watch my seven-minute speech on depression. The number of people who’ve watched it and spoken to their family to establish a dialogue on mental health or gotten help themselves is inspiring to me. Mental health is hard. You’re not alone.
Before further recommendations, I’ve found two books valuable since I wrote this post.
If you’re taking medication for mental health, read The Antidepressant Solution. Any time I changed medication doses, I always thought I was crazy. I felt weird. I felt tired. For a little while, then things would get better. Doctors, therapists, psychiatrists never did a good job explaining why. This book not only explains why, but also provides a more thoughtful approach to changing doses or weening off medication. Any time a doctor told me how to ween off a medication it was one-size-fits-all. Cut your dose in half. Maybe cut it in half again. Then stop taking it. That works for some people, not all. You might rebound. Things might get worse. That’s a bad feeling when you’ve put in so much hard work to improve. Read the book and you’ll be better informed than many doctors on how to reduce these medications with the least impacts.
This is not a book I’d read while I’m actively working on a mental health issue or changing medications. It will upset you. The book is Anatomy of an Epidemic. When you’re stable, it might be worth reading to become more knowledgable on how these medications were researched and introduced to the public and what the systemic effects have been. I was mad after I read it. Like I want to punch a heavy bag until my knuckles are bloody mad. After time passed, I don’t think medications are ineffective. I think it’s good to know the history, another perspective, and decide for yourself how to approach your medications.
If you’re taking generics you may want to listen to this Peter Attia podcast with Katherine Eban. It doesn’t directly discuss mental health medications but generics more broadly. You might come away not trusting your meds. My interpretation is not that simple, but I pay attention whenever the manufacturer for any of my medications changes.
Besides getting professional help when you need it, my top recommendation to improve mental health is to improve your habits. That takes work. It takes experimenting. It takes failing, picking yourself back up, and trying again. All of that is hard when you’re depressed. Still, you have to try.
I will continue to post my ideas for simple ways to improve in my habits guide. For mental health I’d focus most these areas
- Move more
- walk five miles per day
- start with walking an extra mile, every break in your workday
- try group exercise
- Eat better
- unprocessed food
- heavy veg
- high-quality protein
- fats like avocadoes, olive oil, nuts, good-quality dairy
- Sleep well
- move more
- get sunlight as early as possible, as often as possible
- reduce screen/blue light 1-2 hours before bed
- set a cool bedroom temperature starting at 67 deg F
- after your normal 9 am – 5 pm routine, reset your body/mind with exercise, a long walk, a hot bath
Which Person Are You?
Read the headings below and ask “Which situation am I in?”
Person 1 of 5: Someone Asked You to See a Therapist
Person 2 of 5: You Know Someone That Needs Help
Person 3 of 5: You Don’t Know Anyone That Needs Help
Person 4 of 5: You Know a Group That Needs Help
Person 5 of 5: Resources if You Need Help NOW
Statistics and References
- As many as 1 in 2 people have depression in their lifetime (Andrews, Poulton, Skoog, 2005).
- Over 50% will not seek or receive proper treatment (González, Williams, Tarraf, West, and Neighbors via NIH, 2010).
- 1 in 4 people suffers in silence. This is my own math based on the statistics above of the number of people potentially with depression in their lifetime (1 in 2) multiplied by the number that seeks and receives proper treatment (>50%). You might question the 1 in 2 number for lifetime depression risk. That’s understandable. We never hear that number reported that high. Read the research link above for the potential flaws in the studies that report lowers numbers like 10%. Whether it’s as high as 50% or as low as 10% of people having depression in their lifetime, there are or will be people you know and love suffering in silence.
- Treatment is effective. Most research I’ve seen states that between 70-80% of patients see significant improvement six to twelve weeks after treatment begins (WebMD + DBS Alliance). I hope you draw the same conclusion I do. The problem isn’t the effectiveness of treatment. It’s getting people to recognize they need treatment so they take action and get help. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Create the right environment now. Talk about depression openly with your friends, family, and the people most important to you.
Check out this page for more on depression.