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Woman looking sad


Our body’s natural response to a distressing or overwhelming situation is to feel intense sadness and low mood. It is perfectly normal thing to experience and neuroscientists believe it helped our species survive. Our ancestors needed a period of sadness and ‘away-ness’ in order to stop them getting into repeated confrontation with enemies or dangers. Some Apes who live in social groupings exhibit signs of sadness and lowering of their faces after a lost conflict, for example. In humans this sadness and lowering of mood is nearly always triggered by an external stimulus or event.

Depression and low mood Signs and Symptoms

By contrast depression is when these feelings do not disperse quickly but remain for long periods even after a time when we feel the initial event that caused our sadness has passed. We don’t exactly know why this is although we can often see a chemical imbalance in the brains of people who are diagnosed as depressed. Some evolutionists suggest meanwhile, that our busy 21st century lifestyle means that we no longer have the time to rest, mourn and repair as information overload keeps telling us how ‘happy’ and ‘perfect’ our lives should be by contrast.

Whatever the cause one thing that people with depression often have in common is a thought that they have no control over their feelings and/or no hope of things getting better. 

Symptoms include:

  • Overwhelming sense of helplessness
  • Frequent or constant sadness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Not finding pleasure in things you usually find exciting or interesting
  • Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Lack of sleep
  • Churning thoughts
  • Negative self-talk
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • social withdrawal

What to do

If you experience two or more symptoms of depression it is important that you get support right away.

The first time you talk to someone will be the most important time you tell someone. So, it pays to take your time with who you will tell and how.

Choose someone you can trust and for this reason it is often best to talk to your GP or health professional.

Don’t feel guilty, mental health problems affect 1 in 6 of us at any time.

If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone you know there are a list of other sources of support later, most of them offer a helpline and a place to talk where you will not be judged.

Sometimes a GP will recommend medication to help with some of the chemical imbalances caused by depression. While in the longer term a talking therapy such as counselling can be helpful.

 Anxiety in the Workplace

If your low mood is impacting on your performance at work try to let a colleague, HR or a member of management know.

Most schools and colleges have access to counselling that their staff can access more quickly than through the NHS waiting times. In Gloucestershire this includes:

  • Occupational Health
  • The Employee Assistance Programme and
  • Talking Toolkit

In addition your school/college may be able to do more to support you than you think and sometimes small changes can make a big difference. These changes are often referred to as temporary adjustments and might include:

  • reduced timetable for a short period of time
  • support for a particularly difficult task
  • special leave to attend a medical or family appointment.

If symptoms persist or become more difficult to deal with your school/college could consider referring you to Occupational Health who can make more formal recommendations about workplace adjustments and in some circumstances offer early access to counselling.

Further links and support