Aging & Health A to Z
Lifestyle & Management
Support groups for depression are groups of people who have been diagnosed with depression. Members of these groups obtain support from others by talking about their experiences in a welcoming environment. Support groups may be organized by nonprofit organizations, mental health clinics, or even an interested individual. They may involve regular meetings in person, on the internet, or via telephone. Support groups are not the same as group counseling (psychotherapy), in which a psychologist or other mental health provider offers therapy to a group of people.
If you are depressed, a support group can:
- Help you make connections with others so that you feel less alone
- Introduce you to new coping skills that have helped others in the group
- Encourage you to stick to your treatment plan
- Help you realize that being depressed is nothing to be embarrassed about – it can happen to anyone
- Learn what to do when you have medication side effects
- Find out about community resources for people with depression who live in your area.
Finding the right support group may be challenging, so try to attend a few different ones until you find a good fit.
How to find a support group:
- Ask your doctor, therapist or other healthcare professional for a recommendation
- Contact a local, state or national mental health organization, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness
- Look in the yellow pages of your phone book under ”mental health”, “counseling”, or similar listings
- Check your local newspaper for support resources
- Contact community centers or libraries
- Ask friends or family for recommendations
- Search the Internet.
Lifestyle and Depression
Studies have found that people who eat a lot of junk food—processed, fatty, and sugary foods—are at greater risk of developing depression. On the other hand, people who eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, and fish (the Mediterranean diet) appear to be less likely to develop depression.
Vegetarians, especially vegans who eat no eggs or dairy products, need to be particularly careful about getting enough B vitamins and minerals in their diets. If you’re a vegetarian, ask your healthcare provider whether you should be getting supplemental:
- Vitamin B6: You need vitamin B6, for example, to produce normal levels of serotonin, one of the brain’s most important neurotransmitters and one that plays a key role in regulating mood. Vitamin B6 is found in beans, potatoes, bananas, meat, chicken, peanut butter, and fish like salmon and tuna. The recommended intake for men older than 50 years of age is 1.7 mg per day, while women are advised to get 1.5 mg.
- Vitamin B 12: A deficiency in vitamin B12, which is found in meat, eggs, and dairy products, is linked to depression, fatigue, and an inability to concentrate. Supplements and fortified foods can provide the 25-100 micrograms older adults need daily. Older adults are particularly prone to vitamin B12 deficiency.
- Iron: Iron deficiency may also make you feel tired and contribute to depression. Iron is mainly found in meat, but a balanced vegetarian diet with plenty of dark green leafy vegetables and legumes should give you an adequate supply.
Exercise and Depression
When you’re depressed and short on energy, the idea of exercising can be daunting. But recent research finds that exercise can help treat depression and keep it at bay once you feel better. Just 30 minutes of exercise—walking, gardening, even washing the car—counts. Doing this kind of exercise three times a week can make a real difference.
Exercise appears to help for a variety of reasons. Among other things, it triggers the release of brain chemicals associated with feelings of well-being.
Here are some tips for getting started:
- Consult your healthcare professional before starting any exercise regimen.
- Figure out what physical activities you enjoy.
- View exercise as one of your valuable tools for feeling better and becoming healthier.
Updated: March 2012
Posted: March 2012