Tag Archives: Depressed

You want to be pregnant. You’re depressed. A tough choice lies ahead

Throughout my teens, I was adamant I didn’t want children. I thought they were annoying, sticky money pits who had no business being near me. I was a sad and corny teen.

Now I’m 30. I’m still sad, but I’m not broke, and I have a husband. My feelings on the child situation have changed. I’m more open to it now. I think it was a combination of seeing other people with kids and, as I’ve gotten older, having more love to give – or something.

guardian selects

I didn’t have the most stable childhood (or adulthood, for that matter), but I’m now in a position where I could give a kid a good and not-at-all toxic upbringing. I’m not desperate to have a baby – not that there’s anything wrong with that – but I’d love to try.

I traipsed off to therapy, excited to discuss starting a family. I’d only talked about it with my husband, and my therapist would be the only other person who’d know. Lucky her! I readied myself for all her joy and delight. I’d seen it before with my friends. They’d start with a goofy grin on their face and say something like: “We’ve stopped using birth control.” This would be followed by gasps and tiny squeals of glee: “You’re trying for a baby! We’re so happy for you!”

With the same goofy grin that I’d seen from my friends, I proudly announced to my therapist that I wanted to start a family. She smiled, looked me dead in the eye and said: “If you want to have a baby, you need to tell me around three months before you start trying.”

Ah, just how I dreamed it would be!

I have bipolar II, which means I experience frequent episodes of severe depression with a smattering of hypomania. Therefore, I need a longer lead time to process and plan for the mental and physical changes that occur during pregnancy. I’d heard of postpartum depression, and I’d heard of people developing depression during pregnancy, but I hadn’t heard anything about what happens when you’re already depressed and want to have a baby. But with that one decision – to try for a baby – my depression shifted to pre-prenatal depression.

The prevalence of mental illness cannot be overstated. One in six Americans suffer from a mental illness, millions of whom are depressed – and according to an analysis carried out by a clinical psychologist at Oxford University, women are 40% more likely than men to develop mental health conditions.

So it seemed odd that there’s not more out there about getting pregnant while depressed. The few stories I found scared the shit out of me. (One article was ominously titled “Scary news for people who get pregnant while depressed”.) And, unfortunately, there’s no clear list of guidelines for depressed women who want to become moms.

As the Bay Area psychiatrist Jill Armbrust explained to me, the plans for treating a person with depression who wants to get pregnant are the same as those for anyone who’s becoming depressed. “The difference being there would be more focus on and care put on the side effects of various medications.” This takes a lot of time and careful planning. “One usually starts with about six months of psychotherapy, if you have that kind of luxury,” Armbrust advised.

The guidelines that do exist center on medication, of which I take a range to keep my mind intact, namely lithium, Latuda, trazodone, lorazepam and clonazepam. I’d be a whole lot worse without them, and – yes, I intend for this to sound dramatic – I might even be dead.

But it turns out these pills don’t mix well with pregnancy. My therapist advised weaning myself off the meds completely. My first thought was simply, “No.” I didn’t want to think about who I would be without medication. I tried to kill myself without medication. My brain flooded with questions: how could I create a new life when I’ve wanted to end my own? Will I turn into a monster? Should people like me even have children?

I found myself asking that last question a lot. Given my history of depression and suicide, was it safe or even fair for me to have kids? I wondered if there were any circumstances where therapists advised people against getting pregnant.

There are, though, as Armbrust explained: “It’s tremendously variable because of the stigma that even some practitioners carry.” While there’s no absolute answer to this, Armbrust suggests the only two reasons she’d advise against pregnancy: when the woman had unstable psychosis or an untreated substance abuse problem. She went on to say that she believes women with schizophrenia, bipolar and depression – like me – are all candidates to be very good mothers.

I am fortunate enough to have a therapist, and (thanks to my husband) health insurance. Having a baby while depressed was going to be hard but not impossible.

So we began.

‘Do not start trying until you are completely off your medication’

My therapist said we would start by lowering the doses of my lithium, trazodone and Latuda. However, I had to stop taking lorazepam or clonazepam, since both have been recognized by the US Food and Drug Administration as drugs with “positive evidence of human fetal risk based on adverse reaction data from investigational or marketing experience or studies in humans”. The US agency calls these category D drugs, with category A being the safest for pregnant women and X being a total no-go. But since I didn’t take lorazepam or clonazepam every day, I didn’t think that would be too bad.

The one I was worried about most was lithium. Lithium was the one that tied the room together. At the time of talking to my therapist, lithium was category C, the third of the five categories, so I could potentially keep taking it at low doses even if I did become pregnant.

My therapist assured me we’d get through it together and that she’d be monitoring me closely. She suggested I see an OBGYN and see what they thought. About a month later I was booked to see a nurse practitioner, where I had a pap smear and a ton of questions. It isn’t common practice for an OBGYN to screen for depression at this stage, though Armbrust says this would be hugely beneficial, given that postpartum depression is so common. But when it comes to pre-prenatal depression, “It’s still considered stigmatized in a separate area of expertise.” Most of the time you have to volunteer the information yourself.

I told the nurse about my psychiatric history and that I was trying for a baby. Before I could ask her any questions, she stopped me: “Do not start trying until you are completely off your medication.”

“Even lithium?” I spluttered. She furrowed her brow, left the room to check. Three minutes later she came back. “Even lithium.”

My therapist was confused. “Even lithium?” she asked me. I nodded, and when she opened her laptop to check, she nodded, too. “It’s changed to a category D” – just like lorazepam or clonazepam.

This was the first of many conflicting pieces of information I would come across in my mentally ill quest to become pregnant. Distressed that no one had a clear-cut answer, I turned to the one place I knew would be even worse, though it seemed to be also the place where my doctors were getting their information: the internet.

The murky depths of online pregnancy forums

Here in the murky depths of online pregnancy forums is where I found other people with mental illnesses who were equally confused as me.

Though there were still no clear answers, it was strangely comforting. Up until now, I’d been speaking to medical professionals who discussed coming off medication as though it were a procedure. However, in the forums I found people who were talking about it in terms to which I could relate. These were people who lived with schizophrenia, bipolar, PTSD and depression. There were those who felt guilty about continuing to take medication and those who were OK with it. There were some who’d stopped taking their medication, had a bad episode and had to go back on. And there were those who stayed off meds for their whole pregnancy but went back on after the baby was born.

One thing was for sure, nobody had the “right” answer because the “right” answer is whatever works for you.

These conversations turned from medication to general feelings. Women talked about how they felt ashamed of feeling depressed when they should be happy and grateful that they managed to get pregnant in the first place. They talked about how they wrestled with their emotions on the inside and the judgment cast upon them from the outside. The judgment on the outside being other moms in the forum telling them they’re bad mothers for taking medication. It happens all the time and is not exclusive to pregnant mothers with a mental illness. If you’ve ever been on a parenting or pregnancy forum, you’ll know that while they can offer solace and support, they’re also diabolical whirlpools of toxicity designed to drag you down into a complex sewer system of self-righteousness and unconstructive criticism.

“So why even go on them?!” I hear you cry. Great question – but avoiding them is easier said than done, especially when forums are one of the only places I could go to read about other pregnant peoples’ struggle with mental illness (and I’m a sucker for shame). Even though pregnancy forums are bustling hellscapes, they’re (ironically) the only places some us can go to discuss “taboo” subjects such as mental illness.

It’s not you, it’s me

I decided the “right” answer for me was to come off all my medication before trying for a baby, including the lower-risk ones. After three months of careful planning and monitoring, I was entirely med-free for the first time since, five years before, I’d tried to commit suicide. The few other times since then when I came off certain medications because I convinced myself I didn’t need to be on them, I experienced particularly bad depressive and hypomanic episodes, at one point landing myself back in the hospital.

Before, I didn’t tell anyone when I went off medication and decided to go cold turkey, which isn’t ideal. This time, it felt different. I had my therapist monitoring me closely. Still, being off meds contained all the terror of a manic episode without the mania, like walking a tightrope over the Grand Canyon with no safety net.

For the first time in five years, I started to feel – but not in a good way. I’d become so accustomed to my moods being regulated; it was like I had two bouncers standing in front of my mind, letting thoughts and feelings come in at a steady pace. Now the bouncers were gone, and everyone started to rush into the club and fuck shit up. I was overwhelmed and began to isolate myself. I talked to my husband, my therapist, a couple of friends and a whole bunch of strangers on the internet. I retreated into the pregnancy forums where I could be among women who were going through the same thing as me.

Out of everyone, the forums is where I felt the most comfortable. I didn’t feel like I was burdening people with my “issues”, I didn’t feel like I was boring anyone with my constant questions, but most importantly, I didn’t feel alone. I’d tried talking to other people, but with all these unsupervised feelings, it was hard not to get upset or angry.

When it comes to your pregnancy, everyone you meet is an expert on you and your body. You tell people you’re trying, and immediately they’re all “You’ve got plenty of time”, or “Relax, it can take up to a year”. As with everything in life, if I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it, but please know I’ll never ask because I never want it. I knew getting pregnant could take a while. Sometimes it happens instantly, other times it can take years. Either way, the wait can be excruciating. And when you’re flying solo without your antipsychotic medication, the wait becomes dangerous.

Every day I’d wake up and wonder if today were the day I’d lose it. I hoped I wouldn’t have to be hospitalized again. I begged my mind not to have an episode. For me, getting pregnant wasn’t a race against time, it was a race against mind.

After only a couple of months, I felt unstable. I started to feel sad. Not depressed, just sad. I assumed this was part of my unregulated moods, but the sadness lingered. Before long, I felt myself sliding into dangerous territory. The sorrow had morphed into depression, and without any medication to block it, the depression began to pick up speed. I still wanted to have a baby, I just didn’t know if I would be around to have it. I talked with my therapist, and we decided to give it one more month before I went back on the meds. One more month would make it three months total of being off meds, and whether I became pregnant or not, I felt proud I’d made it this far.

Those three months were both terrifying and challenging, but nothing prepared me for what happened next. I got pregnant.

Uncomfortably numb

Even without a mental illness, pregnancy can mess with your head. There’s the hormones, nausea, and the ever-changing body, which can be hard to process for anyone. But here I was, with no control over my body or mind. Everything started happening so quickly. I felt as though I was losing myself. I was happy and grateful we’d managed to get pregnant in a relatively short amount of time, but I was also depressed and disconnected.

I remember staring blankly at the eight-week ultrasound. I knew I should be feeling something, but it just wasn’t happening. It was like I was experiencing phantom feelings. I’d already disassociated from the pregnancy, a pregnancy I wanted and planned. I started to experience a familiar numbness, the same numbness that enveloped me for the first 20 years of my life. I couldn’t even feel shame anymore.

Just like pregnancy, everybody experiences mental illness differently. And while I am fortunate enough to have a therapist, health insurance and an OBGYN, the only person who was going to come up with the “right” answer was me. I’m now four months along and still off medication. Things aren’t perfect. (Is any pregnancy?) I still struggle with depression, and managing without meds does not mean I’m “cured”. I will always have bipolar, and anxiety, and PTSD, but there are things I can do to lessen the mental strain while I’m pregnant.

I continue to work hard at therapy. I try to eat healthily and exercise as much as I can. And I’m starting to increase my social support system beyond the confines of the internet, which has been daunting, but it’s helping a lot. And although I feel good now, I don’t take for granted that it could all change.

I want to be clear: nothing can or will replace my medication. Even now, going back on medication is still an option, and once the baby is born, the plan is to start taking them again. The most important thing is my health. If I’m not healthy, then there was no way this baby could be either. I considered starting back on a low dosage of lithium, but I before I made that decision, I wanted to work on my mental health one last time. Again, I do not judge anyone who continues or goes back to their medication. If that’s what’s best for them, then that’s the right decision.

These are just things that help me personally, but who knows, it all may change. I’m taking it one day at a time. That’s the way it is with depression. There’s no cure; there’s just what works for you, for now.

Amanda Rosenberg is a writer based in San Francisco. You can find her work in McSweeney’s, Quartz, Huffington Post, GOOD, the Establishment and Anxy Mag. She’s an editor for Slackjaw and is currently writing her first book, a collection of essays on mental illness. For more, click here or follow her on Twitter.

Looking for more great work from the women-run digital publication the Establishment? Try these links:

You want to be pregnant. You’re depressed. A tough choice lies ahead

Throughout my teens, I was adamant I didn’t want children. I thought they were annoying, sticky money pits who had no business being near me. I was a sad and corny teen.

Now I’m 30. I’m still sad, but I’m not broke, and I have a husband. My feelings on the child situation have changed. I’m more open to it now. I think it was a combination of seeing other people with kids and, as I’ve gotten older, having more love to give – or something.

guardian selects

I didn’t have the most stable childhood (or adulthood, for that matter), but I’m now in a position where I could give a kid a good and not-at-all toxic upbringing. I’m not desperate to have a baby – not that there’s anything wrong with that – but I’d love to try.

I traipsed off to therapy, excited to discuss starting a family. I’d only talked about it with my husband, and my therapist would be the only other person who’d know. Lucky her! I readied myself for all her joy and delight. I’d seen it before with my friends. They’d start with a goofy grin on their face and say something like: “We’ve stopped using birth control.” This would be followed by gasps and tiny squeals of glee: “You’re trying for a baby! We’re so happy for you!”

With the same goofy grin that I’d seen from my friends, I proudly announced to my therapist that I wanted to start a family. She smiled, looked me dead in the eye and said: “If you want to have a baby, you need to tell me around three months before you start trying.”

Ah, just how I dreamed it would be!

I have bipolar II, which means I experience frequent episodes of severe depression with a smattering of hypomania. Therefore, I need a longer lead time to process and plan for the mental and physical changes that occur during pregnancy. I’d heard of postpartum depression, and I’d heard of people developing depression during pregnancy, but I hadn’t heard anything about what happens when you’re already depressed and want to have a baby. But with that one decision – to try for a baby – my depression shifted to pre-prenatal depression.

The prevalence of mental illness cannot be overstated. One in six Americans suffer from a mental illness, millions of whom are depressed – and according to an analysis carried out by a clinical psychologist at Oxford University, women are 40% more likely than men to develop mental health conditions.

So it seemed odd that there’s not more out there about getting pregnant while depressed. The few stories I found scared the shit out of me. (One article was ominously titled “Scary news for people who get pregnant while depressed”.) And, unfortunately, there’s no clear list of guidelines for depressed women who want to become moms.

As the Bay Area psychiatrist Jill Armbrust explained to me, the plans for treating a person with depression who wants to get pregnant are the same as those for anyone who’s becoming depressed. “The difference being there would be more focus on and care put on the side effects of various medications.” This takes a lot of time and careful planning. “One usually starts with about six months of psychotherapy, if you have that kind of luxury,” Armbrust advised.

The guidelines that do exist center on medication, of which I take a range to keep my mind intact, namely lithium, Latuda, trazodone, lorazepam and clonazepam. I’d be a whole lot worse without them, and – yes, I intend for this to sound dramatic – I might even be dead.

But it turns out these pills don’t mix well with pregnancy. My therapist advised weaning myself off the meds completely. My first thought was simply, “No.” I didn’t want to think about who I would be without medication. I tried to kill myself without medication. My brain flooded with questions: how could I create a new life when I’ve wanted to end my own? Will I turn into a monster? Should people like me even have children?

I found myself asking that last question a lot. Given my history of depression and suicide, was it safe or even fair for me to have kids? I wondered if there were any circumstances where therapists advised people against getting pregnant.

There are, though, as Armbrust explained: “It’s tremendously variable because of the stigma that even some practitioners carry.” While there’s no absolute answer to this, Armbrust suggests the only two reasons she’d advise against pregnancy: when the woman had unstable psychosis or an untreated substance abuse problem. She went on to say that she believes women with schizophrenia, bipolar and depression – like me – are all candidates to be very good mothers.

I am fortunate enough to have a therapist, and (thanks to my husband) health insurance. Having a baby while depressed was going to be hard but not impossible.

So we began.

‘Do not start trying until you are completely off your medication’

My therapist said we would start by lowering the doses of my lithium, trazodone and Latuda. However, I had to stop taking lorazepam or clonazepam, since both have been recognized by the US Food and Drug Administration as drugs with “positive evidence of human fetal risk based on adverse reaction data from investigational or marketing experience or studies in humans”. The US agency calls these category D drugs, with category A being the safest for pregnant women and X being a total no-go. But since I didn’t take lorazepam or clonazepam every day, I didn’t think that would be too bad.

The one I was worried about most was lithium. Lithium was the one that tied the room together. At the time of talking to my therapist, lithium was category C, the third of the five categories, so I could potentially keep taking it at low doses even if I did become pregnant.

My therapist assured me we’d get through it together and that she’d be monitoring me closely. She suggested I see an OBGYN and see what they thought. About a month later I was booked to see a nurse practitioner, where I had a pap smear and a ton of questions. It isn’t common practice for an OBGYN to screen for depression at this stage, though Armbrust says this would be hugely beneficial, given that postpartum depression is so common. But when it comes to pre-prenatal depression, “It’s still considered stigmatized in a separate area of expertise.” Most of the time you have to volunteer the information yourself.

I told the nurse about my psychiatric history and that I was trying for a baby. Before I could ask her any questions, she stopped me: “Do not start trying until you are completely off your medication.”

“Even lithium?” I spluttered. She furrowed her brow, left the room to check. Three minutes later she came back. “Even lithium.”

My therapist was confused. “Even lithium?” she asked me. I nodded, and when she opened her laptop to check, she nodded, too. “It’s changed to a category D” – just like lorazepam or clonazepam.

This was the first of many conflicting pieces of information I would come across in my mentally ill quest to become pregnant. Distressed that no one had a clear-cut answer, I turned to the one place I knew would be even worse, though it seemed to be also the place where my doctors were getting their information: the internet.

The murky depths of online pregnancy forums

Here in the murky depths of online pregnancy forums is where I found other people with mental illnesses who were equally confused as me.

Though there were still no clear answers, it was strangely comforting. Up until now, I’d been speaking to medical professionals who discussed coming off medication as though it were a procedure. However, in the forums I found people who were talking about it in terms to which I could relate. These were people who lived with schizophrenia, bipolar, PTSD and depression. There were those who felt guilty about continuing to take medication and those who were OK with it. There were some who’d stopped taking their medication, had a bad episode and had to go back on. And there were those who stayed off meds for their whole pregnancy but went back on after the baby was born.

One thing was for sure, nobody had the “right” answer because the “right” answer is whatever works for you.

These conversations turned from medication to general feelings. Women talked about how they felt ashamed of feeling depressed when they should be happy and grateful that they managed to get pregnant in the first place. They talked about how they wrestled with their emotions on the inside and the judgment cast upon them from the outside. The judgment on the outside being other moms in the forum telling them they’re bad mothers for taking medication. It happens all the time and is not exclusive to pregnant mothers with a mental illness. If you’ve ever been on a parenting or pregnancy forum, you’ll know that while they can offer solace and support, they’re also diabolical whirlpools of toxicity designed to drag you down into a complex sewer system of self-righteousness and unconstructive criticism.

“So why even go on them?!” I hear you cry. Great question – but avoiding them is easier said than done, especially when forums are one of the only places I could go to read about other pregnant peoples’ struggle with mental illness (and I’m a sucker for shame). Even though pregnancy forums are bustling hellscapes, they’re (ironically) the only places some us can go to discuss “taboo” subjects such as mental illness.

It’s not you, it’s me

I decided the “right” answer for me was to come off all my medication before trying for a baby, including the lower-risk ones. After three months of careful planning and monitoring, I was entirely med-free for the first time since, five years before, I’d tried to commit suicide. The few other times since then when I came off certain medications because I convinced myself I didn’t need to be on them, I experienced particularly bad depressive and hypomanic episodes, at one point landing myself back in the hospital.

Before, I didn’t tell anyone when I went off medication and decided to go cold turkey, which isn’t ideal. This time, it felt different. I had my therapist monitoring me closely. Still, being off meds contained all the terror of a manic episode without the mania, like walking a tightrope over the Grand Canyon with no safety net.

For the first time in five years, I started to feel – but not in a good way. I’d become so accustomed to my moods being regulated; it was like I had two bouncers standing in front of my mind, letting thoughts and feelings come in at a steady pace. Now the bouncers were gone, and everyone started to rush into the club and fuck shit up. I was overwhelmed and began to isolate myself. I talked to my husband, my therapist, a couple of friends and a whole bunch of strangers on the internet. I retreated into the pregnancy forums where I could be among women who were going through the same thing as me.

Out of everyone, the forums is where I felt the most comfortable. I didn’t feel like I was burdening people with my “issues”, I didn’t feel like I was boring anyone with my constant questions, but most importantly, I didn’t feel alone. I’d tried talking to other people, but with all these unsupervised feelings, it was hard not to get upset or angry.

When it comes to your pregnancy, everyone you meet is an expert on you and your body. You tell people you’re trying, and immediately they’re all “You’ve got plenty of time”, or “Relax, it can take up to a year”. As with everything in life, if I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it, but please know I’ll never ask because I never want it. I knew getting pregnant could take a while. Sometimes it happens instantly, other times it can take years. Either way, the wait can be excruciating. And when you’re flying solo without your antipsychotic medication, the wait becomes dangerous.

Every day I’d wake up and wonder if today were the day I’d lose it. I hoped I wouldn’t have to be hospitalized again. I begged my mind not to have an episode. For me, getting pregnant wasn’t a race against time, it was a race against mind.

After only a couple of months, I felt unstable. I started to feel sad. Not depressed, just sad. I assumed this was part of my unregulated moods, but the sadness lingered. Before long, I felt myself sliding into dangerous territory. The sorrow had morphed into depression, and without any medication to block it, the depression began to pick up speed. I still wanted to have a baby, I just didn’t know if I would be around to have it. I talked with my therapist, and we decided to give it one more month before I went back on the meds. One more month would make it three months total of being off meds, and whether I became pregnant or not, I felt proud I’d made it this far.

Those three months were both terrifying and challenging, but nothing prepared me for what happened next. I got pregnant.

Uncomfortably numb

Even without a mental illness, pregnancy can mess with your head. There’s the hormones, nausea, and the ever-changing body, which can be hard to process for anyone. But here I was, with no control over my body or mind. Everything started happening so quickly. I felt as though I was losing myself. I was happy and grateful we’d managed to get pregnant in a relatively short amount of time, but I was also depressed and disconnected.

I remember staring blankly at the eight-week ultrasound. I knew I should be feeling something, but it just wasn’t happening. It was like I was experiencing phantom feelings. I’d already disassociated from the pregnancy, a pregnancy I wanted and planned. I started to experience a familiar numbness, the same numbness that enveloped me for the first 20 years of my life. I couldn’t even feel shame anymore.

Just like pregnancy, everybody experiences mental illness differently. And while I am fortunate enough to have a therapist, health insurance and an OBGYN, the only person who was going to come up with the “right” answer was me. I’m now four months along and still off medication. Things aren’t perfect. (Is any pregnancy?) I still struggle with depression, and managing without meds does not mean I’m “cured”. I will always have bipolar, and anxiety, and PTSD, but there are things I can do to lessen the mental strain while I’m pregnant.

I continue to work hard at therapy. I try to eat healthily and exercise as much as I can. And I’m starting to increase my social support system beyond the confines of the internet, which has been daunting, but it’s helping a lot. And although I feel good now, I don’t take for granted that it could all change.

I want to be clear: nothing can or will replace my medication. Even now, going back on medication is still an option, and once the baby is born, the plan is to start taking them again. The most important thing is my health. If I’m not healthy, then there was no way this baby could be either. I considered starting back on a low dosage of lithium, but I before I made that decision, I wanted to work on my mental health one last time. Again, I do not judge anyone who continues or goes back to their medication. If that’s what’s best for them, then that’s the right decision.

These are just things that help me personally, but who knows, it all may change. I’m taking it one day at a time. That’s the way it is with depression. There’s no cure; there’s just what works for you, for now.

Amanda Rosenberg is a writer based in San Francisco. You can find her work in McSweeney’s, Quartz, Huffington Post, GOOD, the Establishment and Anxy Mag. She’s an editor for Slackjaw and is currently writing her first book, a collection of essays on mental illness. For more, click here or follow her on Twitter.

Looking for more great work from the women-run digital publication the Establishment? Try these links:

What depressed robots can teach us about mental health | Zachary Mainen

Depression seems a uniquely human way of suffering, but surprising new ways of thinking about it are coming from the field of artificial intelligence. Worldwide, over 350 million people have depression, and rates are climbing. The success of today’s generation of AI owes much to studies of the brain. Might AI return the favour and shed light on mental illness?

The central idea of computational neuroscience is that similar issues face any intelligent agent – human or artificial – and therefore call for similar sorts of solutions. Intelligence of any form is thought to depend on building a model of the world – a map of how things work that allows its owner to make predictions, plan and take actions to achieve its goals.

Setting the right degree of flexibility in learning is a critical problem for an intelligent system. A person’s model of the world is built up slowly over years of experience. Yet sometimes everything changes from one day to the next – if you move to a foreign country, for instance. This calls for much more flexibility than usual. In AI, a global parameter that controls how flexible a model is – how fast it changes – is called the “learning rate”.

Failure to adapt to adversity may be one of the main reasons why humans get depressed. For example, someone who becomes disabled due to a severe injury suddenly needs to learn to view themselves in a new way. A person who does so may thrive, while a person who fails to may become depressed.

The idea of a depressed AI seems odd, but machines could face similar problems. Imagine a robot with a hardware malfunction. Perhaps it needs to learn a new way of grasping information. If its learning rate is not high enough, it may lack the flexibility to change its algorithms. If severely damaged, it might even need to adopt new goals. If it fails to adapt it could give up and stop trying.

A “depressed” AI could be easily fixed by a supervisor boosting its learning rate. But imagine an AI sent light years away to another solar system. It would need to set its own learning rate, and this could go wrong.

One might think that the solution would be to keep flexibility high. But there is a cost to too much flexibility. If learning rate is too great, one is always forgetting what was previously learned and never accumulating knowledge. If goals are too flexible, an AI is rudderless, distracted by every new encounter.

The human brain’s equivalent of an AI’s key global variables is thought by computational psychiatrists to be several “neuromodulators”, including the dopamine and serotonin systems. There are only a handful of these highly privileged groups of cells and they broadcast their special chemical messages to almost the entire brain.

A line of studies from my laboratory and others suggest that the brain’s way of setting the learning rate involves the serotonin system. In the lab, if we teach a mouse a task with certain rules and then abruptly change them, serotonin neurons respond strongly. They seem to be broadcasting a signal of surprise: “Oops! Time to change the model.” Then, when serotonin is released in downstream brain areas, it can be seen in the laboratory to promote plasticity or rewiring, particularly to rework the circuitry of an outdated model.

Antidepressants are typically selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which boost the availability of serotonin in the brain. Antidepressants are naively depicted as “happiness pills”, but this research suggests that they actually work mainly by promoting brain plasticity. If true, getting out of depression starts with flexibility.

If these ideas are on the right track, susceptibility to depression is one of the costs of the ability to adapt to an ever-changing environment. Today’s AIs are learning machines, but highly specialised ones with no autonomy. As we take steps toward more flexible “general AI”, we can expect to learn more about how this can go wrong, with more lessons for understanding not only depression but also conditions such as schizophrenia.

For a human, to be depressed is not merely to have a problem with learning, but to experience profound suffering. That is why, above all else, it is a condition that deserves our attention. For a machine, what looks like depression may involve no suffering whatsoever. But that does not mean that we cannot learn from machines how human brains might go wrong.

Zachary Mainen is a neuroscientist whose research focuses on the brain mechanisms of decision-making

What depressed robots can teach us about mental health | Zachary Mainen

Depression seems a uniquely human way of suffering, but surprising new ways of thinking about it are coming from the field of artificial intelligence. Worldwide, over 350 million people have depression, and rates are climbing. The success of today’s generation of AI owes much to studies of the brain. Might AI return the favour and shed light on mental illness?

The central idea of computational neuroscience is that similar issues face any intelligent agent – human or artificial – and therefore call for similar sorts of solutions. Intelligence of any form is thought to depend on building a model of the world – a map of how things work that allows its owner to make predictions, plan and take actions to achieve its goals.

Setting the right degree of flexibility in learning is a critical problem for an intelligent system. A person’s model of the world is built up slowly over years of experience. Yet sometimes everything changes from one day to the next – if you move to a foreign country, for instance. This calls for much more flexibility than usual. In AI, a global parameter that controls how flexible a model is – how fast it changes – is called the “learning rate”.

Failure to adapt to adversity may be one of the main reasons why humans get depressed. For example, someone who becomes disabled due to a severe injury suddenly needs to learn to view themselves in a new way. A person who does so may thrive, while a person who fails to may become depressed.

The idea of a depressed AI seems odd, but machines could face similar problems. Imagine a robot with a hardware malfunction. Perhaps it needs to learn a new way of grasping information. If its learning rate is not high enough, it may lack the flexibility to change its algorithms. If severely damaged, it might even need to adopt new goals. If it fails to adapt it could give up and stop trying.

A “depressed” AI could be easily fixed by a supervisor boosting its learning rate. But imagine an AI sent light years away to another solar system. It would need to set its own learning rate, and this could go wrong.

One might think that the solution would be to keep flexibility high. But there is a cost to too much flexibility. If learning rate is too great, one is always forgetting what was previously learned and never accumulating knowledge. If goals are too flexible, an AI is rudderless, distracted by every new encounter.

The human brain’s equivalent of an AI’s key global variables is thought by computational psychiatrists to be several “neuromodulators”, including the dopamine and serotonin systems. There are only a handful of these highly privileged groups of cells and they broadcast their special chemical messages to almost the entire brain.

A line of studies from my laboratory and others suggest that the brain’s way of setting the learning rate involves the serotonin system. In the lab, if we teach a mouse a task with certain rules and then abruptly change them, serotonin neurons respond strongly. They seem to be broadcasting a signal of surprise: “Oops! Time to change the model.” Then, when serotonin is released in downstream brain areas, it can be seen in the laboratory to promote plasticity or rewiring, particularly to rework the circuitry of an outdated model.

Antidepressants are typically selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which boost the availability of serotonin in the brain. Antidepressants are naively depicted as “happiness pills”, but this research suggests that they actually work mainly by promoting brain plasticity. If true, getting out of depression starts with flexibility.

If these ideas are on the right track, susceptibility to depression is one of the costs of the ability to adapt to an ever-changing environment. Today’s AIs are learning machines, but highly specialised ones with no autonomy. As we take steps toward more flexible “general AI”, we can expect to learn more about how this can go wrong, with more lessons for understanding not only depression but also conditions such as schizophrenia.

For a human, to be depressed is not merely to have a problem with learning, but to experience profound suffering. That is why, above all else, it is a condition that deserves our attention. For a machine, what looks like depression may involve no suffering whatsoever. But that does not mean that we cannot learn from machines how human brains might go wrong.

Zachary Mainen is a neuroscientist whose research focuses on the brain mechanisms of decision-making

What depressed robots can teach us about mental health | Zachary Mainen

Depression seems a uniquely human way of suffering, but surprising new ways of thinking about it are coming from the field of artificial intelligence. Worldwide, over 350 million people have depression, and rates are climbing. The success of today’s generation of AI owes much to studies of the brain. Might AI return the favour and shed light on mental illness?

The central idea of computational neuroscience is that similar issues face any intelligent agent – human or artificial – and therefore call for similar sorts of solutions. Intelligence of any form is thought to depend on building a model of the world – a map of how things work that allows its owner to make predictions, plan and take actions to achieve its goals.

Setting the right degree of flexibility in learning is a critical problem for an intelligent system. A person’s model of the world is built up slowly over years of experience. Yet sometimes everything changes from one day to the next – if you move to a foreign country, for instance. This calls for much more flexibility than usual. In AI, a global parameter that controls how flexible a model is – how fast it changes – is called the “learning rate”.

Failure to adapt to adversity may be one of the main reasons why humans get depressed. For example, someone who becomes disabled due to a severe injury suddenly needs to learn to view themselves in a new way. A person who does so may thrive, while a person who fails to may become depressed.

The idea of a depressed AI seems odd, but machines could face similar problems. Imagine a robot with a hardware malfunction. Perhaps it needs to learn a new way of grasping information. If its learning rate is not high enough, it may lack the flexibility to change its algorithms. If severely damaged, it might even need to adopt new goals. If it fails to adapt it could give up and stop trying.

A “depressed” AI could be easily fixed by a supervisor boosting its learning rate. But imagine an AI sent light years away to another solar system. It would need to set its own learning rate, and this could go wrong.

One might think that the solution would be to keep flexibility high. But there is a cost to too much flexibility. If learning rate is too great, one is always forgetting what was previously learned and never accumulating knowledge. If goals are too flexible, an AI is rudderless, distracted by every new encounter.

The human brain’s equivalent of an AI’s key global variables is thought by computational psychiatrists to be several “neuromodulators”, including the dopamine and serotonin systems. There are only a handful of these highly privileged groups of cells and they broadcast their special chemical messages to almost the entire brain.

A line of studies from my laboratory and others suggest that the brain’s way of setting the learning rate involves the serotonin system. In the lab, if we teach a mouse a task with certain rules and then abruptly change them, serotonin neurons respond strongly. They seem to be broadcasting a signal of surprise: “Oops! Time to change the model.” Then, when serotonin is released in downstream brain areas, it can be seen in the laboratory to promote plasticity or rewiring, particularly to rework the circuitry of an outdated model.

Antidepressants are typically selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which boost the availability of serotonin in the brain. Antidepressants are naively depicted as “happiness pills”, but this research suggests that they actually work mainly by promoting brain plasticity. If true, getting out of depression starts with flexibility.

If these ideas are on the right track, susceptibility to depression is one of the costs of the ability to adapt to an ever-changing environment. Today’s AIs are learning machines, but highly specialised ones with no autonomy. As we take steps toward more flexible “general AI”, we can expect to learn more about how this can go wrong, with more lessons for understanding not only depression but also conditions such as schizophrenia.

For a human, to be depressed is not merely to have a problem with learning, but to experience profound suffering. That is why, above all else, it is a condition that deserves our attention. For a machine, what looks like depression may involve no suffering whatsoever. But that does not mean that we cannot learn from machines how human brains might go wrong.

Zachary Mainen is a neuroscientist whose research focuses on the brain mechanisms of decision-making

GPs: Behind Closed Doors review – depressed about the NHS yet?

Meet Ricky. He has a knee injury, a stiff neck and a cough. He missed a consultant appointment because he is terrified of going to hospital. “I’m scared,” he confesses to Dr Jiwanji at Farnham Road Surgery in Slough. “I’m not going.” Meanwhile, his knee pain worsens. Also, he lives in a “disgusting” house. Someone keeps urinating in the hallway. Dr Jiwanji asks him what he needs. “A knee support and some physio,” Ricky replies. In a broken system, this is how a broken patient’s complex needs must be distilled.

Except, Dr Jiwanji explains: “We don’t provide knee supports. You have to buy them.”

“I’m on benefits,” Ricky replies. “I can’t afford it.”

So Ricky gives up on a knee support and Dr Jiwanji writes another referral letter explaining that Ricky will only be operated on under general anaesthetic. Welcome to a typical exchange in GPs: Behind Closed Doors (Channel 5, 8pm). Here’s another: a beleaguered receptionist listens to a woman’s complaint that her legs are killing her. “I might as well just sit in bed and die,” she announces. The receptionist continues to look at her screen. “Can you come tomorrow at 11.40am?” she eventually asks without looking up. The woman is delighted. She has hit the jackpot: a next-day appointment.

And so on, ad infinitum. This might be the most depressing programme on television. What is the point of it? To chill our hearts? Frighten hypochondriacs? Remind us that GPs, like the musicians on the Titanic, are doing their best in a bad situation? We know this, that the NHS, the last bastion of civilised life in this shattered country, is being dismantled even as each new episode airs and we repeat-dial our surgeries in the hope of a phone consultation. We don’t need to see a doctor examining a lump on Colleen’s hand to prove it.

Nevertheless, it continues. The GPs see a baby with eczema, a young woman experiencing seizures whose mum has recorded them on her phone, a man with concussion following a head injury, and another with a swollen leg that might be the result of fatal internal bleeding. Then there’s Leslie, who has hypersensitivity pneumonitis, otherwise known as bird-fancier’s lung. He used to keep 500 birds but is now so ill he has got rid of 300 rare species that were in his house. And got himself some squirrels instead. “No feathers,” he explains between sputum-laden coughs.

The dishy doctor of the practice – because there must be one – is Dr James. “He’s the delicious-looking doctor here,” Beryl giggles as she awaits a steroid injection, which she declares to be lovely. “I’m not sure about that,” Dr James quips. “Everyone here says I look like David Cameron.” This is pretty much the only heartwarming moment – and it features David Cameron.

By the time the programme finishes with a spoof-like update on the patients – Colleen’s lump has been removed, Sean’s potentially fatal swollen leg turned out to be muscle strain – I have figured out the potential of this excruciating show. It will become a government-endorsed project, on endless repeat on an obscure channel, allowing viewers to self-diagnose from the sofa and save NHS resources. Either that, or it is a good basis for an episode of Black Mirror.

Kids On The Edge (Channel 4, 9pm) is also a fly-on-the-wall series about an NHS service but with genuine heart and soul. A thoughtful and moving documentary following the specialised work of the Tavistock trust, the second episode takes us inside Gloucester House, an NHS-run primary school for children with severe mental, social and emotional health issues. Its 18 pupils have all been expelled. Gloucester House represents the end of the line, and like many such places, it turns out to be filled with rage, resolve, patience and hope.

The most moving story features its longest standing pupil Josh, 11, who has a history of appalling abuse and neglect: at the age of three he was scavenging food for his two younger brothers. Adopted when he was five by a a lovely, tender gay couple called Stig and Phil, Josh is overwhelmed by rage and struggles to feel remorse. Josh’s behaviour deteriorates towards the end of term. He runs away on a school trip and says he feels as if he is going to burst. But the commitment of the workers, therapists, teachers, parents and children is nothing short of miraculous. “We’re fighting for Josh to have a future,” says Stig. And it doesn’t get more hopeful than that.

Young barristers in debt and depressed, warns head of Bar Council youth wing

Young barristers are heavily in debt and becoming vulnerable to depression, the chair of the Bar Council’s youth wing warns.

In an address to the organisation’s annual conference on Saturday, Louisa Nye will say many find it “difficult to stop worrying” at a time when lawyers are characterised in the media as a “scourge on society”.

Young barristers start their careers with accumulated debts of up to £70,000, she will go on, at a time when many are earning the “lowest of sums” for important work that is undervalued by society.

Nye, who is chair of the young barristers’ committee of the Bar Council of England and Wales, will admit that she herself had suffered from anxiety and depression.

“I have lost a close friend who took her own life, in part under the strain that this job and circumstances can place on people,” she will tell the conference.

“Today’s cohort of young barristers is in a particularly vulnerable position. They are financially vulnerable – as a consequence of tuition fees and increases in the [Bar Professional Training Course] fees, we now know that young barristers can have anywhere from £30,000-£70,000 debt when they start out in the profession.

“Many are making repayments over their first five years of practice, if not substantially longer. Young criminal and family barristers are receiving the lowest of sums for carrying out important work, and many are struggling to maintain a living.”

Nye, who is a member of Landmark Chambers in London, will add: “Parts of the media have reports almost daily where lawyers are criticised for the work they do and characterised as a scourge on society.

“Young barristers live in deeply uncertain and difficult times … And it is difficult against that background not to feel somewhat lost and somewhat depressed.”

She will point to the Wellbeing at the Bar report published last year which highlighted high levels of stress and anxiety felt by barristers.

Nye will say: “The survey found that one in three barristers finds it difficult to control or stop worrying. One in six barristers said that they felt low in spirits most of the time.”

Could this be the reason you are depressed? Statin Drugs: what you need to know

Statins and the Depression Connection: Were you depressed before you went on a Statin Drug?

Statins appear to be correlated with the onset of depressive symptoms along with hostility, rage, suicidal ideation, suicide, and combativeness.

Dr. Graveline from www.spacedoc.com states that statins interfere with the biochemistry of the dolichols which are metabolic pathways that are necessary to form our neuropeptides.  Neuropeptides are considered messenger molecules that are the basis for our thoughts and emotions.  Since statins inhibit dolichols, cell communication is also inhibited as well as neuro-hormone production.

What you should know if you are on or going on a Statin medication

There are numerous individual reports of those who experienced depressive symptoms once starting on a statin.  For those wanting to report their symptoms a good place to do so is at www.statineffects.com in which all person reports are collected on not just depressive symptoms but any symptoms from statin usage.

If you are thinking of going on a statin (or any other medication for that matter) visit www.askapatient.com and here you will find people noting their symptoms from various drugs (you click on the drug you want to see symptoms for). On this site there are numerous negative reports of statin side effects.

Did you know that having low total cholesterol is not necessarily a good thing?

Upon research, it has been reported that total cholesterol (TC) levels are consistently lower in more severely depressed and aggressive people. (we need cholesterol!)  So is it the statin that is causing the depressive side effects or is it because the statin is bringing the TC levels too low? (Below 160 is when symptoms have been noted).

Other studies show that the type of statin you use may also impact what symptoms are expressed.

As a result, both may have an impact. There are numerous reports of those on statins and having cholesterol in the 200’s and reporting depressive symptoms while others have lower TC.  Could the nutrient deficiencies that statins cause also have an impact on depression symptoms?  Many factors related to the medication use may be creating the symptoms.

Low Cholesterol and brain function

Yeon-Kyun Shin, a professor of biophysics at Iowa State University and an expert in brain signaling has demonstrated that lowering cholesterol through the use of drugs interferes with brain function.  In one experiment, Shin showed that having cholesterol present increases the protein function involved in neurotransmitter release machinery from the brain cells by five times.  If you try to lower the cholesterol by taking medication that is attaching the machinery of cholesterol synthesis in the liver, that drug goes to the brain too.  And then it reduces the synthesis of cholesterol which is necessary in the brain.

The bottom line

Why are you on a statin medication and do you really need to be on this medication?

In the end, research does not support the advice that a low cholesterol level will prevent heart disease.  Heart disease is a disease of systemic inflammation. We need to realize that cholesterol is not the enemy-we need cholesterol! It is a very critical biochemical needed for proper brain function along with sex hormone and vitamin D production.

If you are on a statin also be aware of the nutrient deficiencies it may create.  Your omega 3 fatty acids, ubiquinol, vitamin D, vitamin E, and selenium levels may be impacted as well.

What to do instead of using a statin drug

 If you want to prevent heart disease you need to change your diet and lifestyle to reduce inflammation.  Avoid sugar, refined and processed foods and eat whole foods as much as possible.  Eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. Make vegetables and salads the biggest portion of your meals with moderate amounts of protein and only small amounts of starches.  Pass up the French fries and deep fried foods and opt for your starchy carbs in the form of beets, carrots, sweet potato , small amounts of beans and legumes or non- gluten whole grains.

Supplements and herbs can be supportive as well, however making diet and a lifestyle change for heart health needs to come first. As I often say to my clients, you can take all high quality, expensive supplements in the world, but if you still eat “like crap” you will still feel like crap.   .

I encourage you to do your own research if you are on a statin medication and to take control of your own health instead of leaving it in the hands of others

Sources:

Bowden, J. & Sinatra, S.  (2012) The Great cholesterol Myth.  MA: Fair Wind Press.

Feingold, J. et. al. (3/18/14) What Proportion of Symptomatic side effects in patients taking statins are

genuinely caused by the drug? Systemic review of randomized, placebo controlled trials to aid individual patient

choice.  European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. www.cpr.sagepub.com

Graveline, D. (11/10) Depression and Statin Drug Use.   www.spacedoc.com

Kaplan, A. (11/30/10) Statins, cholesterol depletion-and mood disorders-what’s the missing link?

www.psychiatrictimes.com

McTaggart, L. (8/16)The damaged brain. What doctors don’t tell you.  www.wddty.com

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition (candidate) and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC believes in addressing root causes of your health condition instead of symptom management. She is the author or the Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition guide E book which you can find on kindle books at amazon.com or her website.  If you would like to learn more about her services visit www.trufoodsnutrition.com

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure or diagnose.  This article is for educational purposes only

How Your Student Debt Can Make You Sick And Depressed

The “Congratulations!” cards have stopped coming in the mail and the school low cost and drink specials no longer apply. With graduation season in excess of, now all you’re left with is a looming stack of student loans in a shaky economic climate. It is no secret that mounting debt is undesirable for your financial institution account, but it’s really worth taking into consideration the physical and psychological effect of pupil debt.

A 2013 research performed by Northwestern University’s Feinberg College of Medication located that 24- 32-year olds reported greater incidents of substantial blood pressure and depression as a outcome of substantial fiscal debt. Researchers asked eight,400 participants about their debt-to-asset ratio as properly as how significantly debt they owed, not such as a residence home loan. The final results uncovered that these with large in contrast to reduced debt reported an 11.seven% enhance in perceived pressure, a 13.two% increase in depressive signs like elevated irritability and lack of target, and a one.three% improve in blood pressure.

“These are individuals who are supposed to be residing the healthiest years of their lives,” says Thomas McDade, Ph.D., co-author of the study and professor of anthropology at Northwestern. “This study showed that debt has a critical influence on our tension, which then affects our bodily and psychological well being.”

Substantial blood pressure can lead to ailments like hypertension and enhanced chance of heart condition, obesity and stroke, even in young adulthood. Depression can decrease one’s good quality of lifestyle and stop people from taking action towards the improvement of its bodily impacts, according to McDade.

The University of California, Los Angeles just launched a review that linked depression and high blood pressure to memory troubles such as diminished focus span and cognitive reserve in youthful grownups. These are both precursors to Alzheimer’s disease. Whilst most younger grownups are not worrying about strokes and dementia just yet, infertility, hair reduction and weight problems are added comorbidities of stress and depression.

Yet another 2013 examine carried out by Indiana University, Bloomington went even further, finding that debt driven by student loans can go past a pain in your neck and truly influence how a student is spending “the greatest 4 years of their lives.” Researchers located that students with no debt located themselves with a total social calendar. Those carrying the debt burden, however, took a single of two routes. 1 group of college students identified themselves isolated from the rest of campus and disengaged from the further-curricular routines dominated by their debt-free counterparts. They did not hit the books as often as they need to, either. The other group, even so, appeared to have far more focus on receiving themselves out of debt by learning the most of the 3 groups and obtaining concerned on campus with the hope of putting themselves in a position to score  a nicely-paying out work right after graduation.

To be sure, debt is not inherently bad. In truth, says McDade, some varieties like student loans can encourage social mobility. “Student debt often flows from the earning of a credential that increases prospects on the work market,” says McDade. “Unfortunately, unfavorable varieties of debt like substantial curiosity charges and escalating penalties can contribute to downward monetary spirals that have the opposite effect on social mobility. This review points to what varieties of debt could help families and what we ought to take into account staying away from.”

Despite the fact that the distinct overall health and psychological affect of student loans are unknown, they are normally regarded as a safer debt for students to carry, as in contrast to ones like credit score card debt, thinking about an educations’ ROI when in contrast with other investments. If a person does not finish school or get that job they count on will aid shell out off the debt, nonetheless, that is when things can become overpowering and consider a toll on one’s bodily and psychological overall health, according to McDade.

To combat the subsequent diseases, McDade would like to see school campuses supply counseling not basically for emotional requirements, but for economic ones, as well. He believes students could benefit from advice on how to stay away from specific debts because college is a time when they could be managing their finances on their personal for the very first time.

“I really don’t feel it ought to be critical of people possessing debt because it is so ubiquitous,” says Elizabeth Sweet, a faculty member at the University of Massachusetts Boston and leader of the research. “Since this is going to be a way of life, we need to understand that it has impacts on each bodily and psychological overall health and it has pathways like stress and depression. We need to do every thing we can do to alleviate that off the bat.” Sweet and her crew are in the early phases of a new review that will explore what certain sorts of debt are associated with distinct wellness outcomes.

“You can not paint all debt with the identical brush—you just have to make sure what you have is manageable and the returns are much more payable,” says McDade. “The final results of the review make you sit down and take into account what are the ‘safer’ forms of debt to you want to locate yourselves in.”

‘I’m depressed and it is frustrating that students will not understand’

A good deal of students are pretty intolerant when it comes to psychological well being concerns, says 22-year-previous John Servante, who suffers from significant depression.

“Most students nonetheless think mental sickness is a myth, that it’s just the result of not enough intercourse, or not having a constructive psychological perspective, or not smoking sufficient weed,” he says.

“They have no notion that psychological problems are genuine neurobiological illnesses. A person confronted me, for instance, about why I so seldom turn up to lectures, and I explained it was since of psychological well being troubles. They just looked at me and explained, ‘Right, so you could actually just go to lectures. It is not like you’re genuinely sick’.”

Servantes, a third-yr English literature pupil at Warwick University, was diagnosed with clinical depression at the starting of his 2nd yr.

In January of that academic year, his university sent him an e mail threatening him with expulsion above bad attendance, even though his private tutor knew about his condition. The university later on put this down to an “admin error”. At the same time, Servante found he was currently being ostracised by other college students.

In March, he set up an anonymous website referred to as A Diary of a Depressed Pupil below the pseudonym Charlie Brown (the anxious tiny boy in the Peanuts comic strip).

“I started the blog since I was getting a miserable time at university and I was threatened with deregistration,” Servante says. “I considered men and women essential to know how folks like me were becoming taken care of, and I wished to vent my frustrations in a way that might increase the social landscape for mentally sick students.”

Servante was overwhelmed by the response from students about the globe, who emailed him their stories of coping with depression at university. A 12 months later on, he made a decision to reveal his identity in the hope that it would give much more students the courage to communicate out.

Servante tells me that throughout bad patches, he suffers from insomnia and often awakens to suicidal ideas: “Your thoughts races with these horrible voices telling you that life’s not worth living – that you have no buddies, no abilities, no well worth.

“By morning, you are exhausted, and you attain this inert phase exactly where your mind’s alive but your body’s dead. With all the will in the world, you can’t do anything at all to get up. If you cry or dribble or something, liquids just run down the side of your face.”

The feelings of worthlessness and despair proceed to haunt him during the day.

“If you make it out of the house, you knowledge this extreme paranoia that absolutely everyone is aware of you’re mentally sick and that they are disgusted with you, that you are so pathetic a mugger would not bother with you,” he says.

“The world gets actually loud with the sounds of your heart beating and your heavy breathing. You may possibly not consume as a form of punishment for being so pathetic, so you’ll starve yourself and not drink.”

At times he sets off in his car, but in no way completes the 20-minute journey to campus: “Even though driving, I go into this state exactly where I really feel that the misery in my head is a bodily issue,” he says. “The up coming point I know, it’s like an hour later, I have missed a seminar, and I am curled up in the foetal position in my auto by the side of the road.”

Servante’s illness has had a significant affect on his relationships with the opposite intercourse. “I’m now going out with a woman who also has depression,” he says. “She’s excellent and we have a lovely relationship, but no way would a non-depressed particular person go out with me.

“I have experimented with it prior to. You begin seeing a woman, you admit that you have a psychological illness and that’s it – they are no longer remotely interested. You are placed firmly in the ‘friend zone’. Or in a worst situation situation, they quit talking to you altogether.”

Servante says there is much more of a stigma about men obtaining depression than women. “I uncover tutors are significantly less sympathetic to male college students with depression, judging by the stories I’ve had through the site and individual knowledge,” he says. “Ladies can speak about becoming depressed and get some sympathy. Guys, even at Warwick, are treated as although they must shut up, guy up, drink much more and have a lot more intercourse.”

He had a “short spell” of counselling at Warwick, but says it was underfunded and of small aid.

“I speedily turned to the NHS and went by means of a lengthy program of cognitive behavioural therapy,” he says. “Undoubtedly – although I’m in no way cured – therapy saved my lifestyle.”

He adds: “I never ever utilized anything like Samaritans since, till my loved ones and friends confronted me about my depression, I was in deep denial. I utilised to put feeling suicidal down to becoming tired or not getting eaten properly. It took me a lengthy time to accept my mental illness.”

Aside from searching for specialist help, he advises college students suffering from psychological sickness to talk to other folks about it.

“If you’re unfortunate ample to locate that individuals you talk to have no empathy, do not give up, simply because you are not alone. No a single must ever come to feel ashamed of an sickness or disability. Talk to people and look for help any way you can.”

You can read through John’s website here.

Depression and Me
Matt Clifton is a 2nd-12 months business management pupil at the University of Essex. In 2012 he commenced a site known as Beat Depression Collectively, that gives assistance for men and women coping with a mental wellness difficulty. Clifton struggled with depression himself as a student, and has now written a guide referred to as Teenage Depression Versus Me.

College students Against Depression
Students Towards Depression (Unhappy) is a resource internet site for college students, but also includes contributions from college students who have selected to share their experiences of depression in order to support others.

If you are going through feelings of depression or have suicidal thoughts, you can ring the Samaritans for free on 08457 90 90 90 or make contact with them on-line.

The pupil counselling support Nightline operates all through the evening for the duration of phrase time – seem at its site to discover a number for your campus branch.

You can also contact psychological overall health charity Thoughts‘s helpline on 0300 123 3393 for guidance – they can advise you on exactly where to seek assist and provide data about medication and kinds of mental wellness problems.

Guardian unique: Perform stress fuels mental overall health troubles in academia