Depression is a very common form of mental distress.
- 1 in 5 people will experience depression at some point during their life. (source)
- 1 in 4 young people in the UK experience suicidal thoughts
- Rates of depression and anxiety in teenagers have increased by 70% in the past 25 years. (source)
Debate rages around whether it is ‘just’ a chemical imbalance in the brain and can be cured with medication alone, or whether it is an extreme form of sadness which should be accepted as part of the human experience. Whatever it is, depression is a bleak and lonely landscape to inhabit. One explorer of such a landscape, who returned with some advice for keeping it at bay, was a 19th century cleric names Sydney Smith. I have always loved his clear, no-nonsense advice to a friend who was suffering from ‘low spirits’. My favourites are numbers 6, 8, 14 and 18. I’m not too sure about 2, 10 and 19. Which ones do you like?
1. Live as well as you dare.
2. Go into the shower-bath with a small quantity of water at a temperature low enough to give you a slight sensation of cold.
3. Read amusing books.
4. Take short views of human life – not further than dinner or tea.
5. Be as busy as you can.
6. See as much as you can of those friends who like and respect you.
7. And of those acquaintances who amuse you.
8. Make no secret of low spirits to your friends, but talk of them freely – they are always worse for dignified concealment.
9. Attend to the effects tea and coffee produce upon you.
10. Don’t expect too much from human life – a sorry business at the best.
11. Compare your lot with that of other people.
12. Avoid poetry, dramatic representations (except comedy), music, serious novels, melancholy, sentimental people, everything likely to excite feeling or emotion, not ending in active benevolence.
13. Do good and endeavour to please everybody of every degree.
14th: Be as much as you can in the open air without fatigue.
15. Make the room where you commonly sit gay and pleasant.
16. Struggle little by little against idleness.
17. Don’t be too severe upon yourself, or underrate yourself, but do yourself justice.
18. Keep good blazing fires.
19th: Be firm and constant in the exercise of rational religion.
20th: Believe me, dear Lady Georgiana.