There are no definitive ‘cures’ for depression. Mental health is an endless challenge and the medical world is always learning.
For example, those suffering from mental illnesses aren’t called patients any more, they’re called service users. A psychologist told me that this is because the emphasis is on people helping themselves, rather than being prodded and told things by doctors.
Instead, people in need are equipped with the tools they need and given the guidance of professionals.
A surgeon can go in and fix a broken bone; a doctor can prescribe painkillers for hurt limbs. The mind is different.
Of course, when suffering a mental illness, the first point of call should still be your doctor, a psychologist, a therapist, a counsellor. And your friends and family.
But there are also small mechanisms and processes we can do ourselves to try to improve things. Exercise is one, another is what we eat, which has a significant impact on our everyday lives.
There are a number of studies, including one by Harvard Medical School, which suggest exercise and diet weigh heavily on mental health.
Nutritionist Melissa Brunetti, who specialises in the connection between food and mental health, says that diet is still too often overlooked as a treatment for depression.
Brunetti told Quartz that food “can have a huge impact on people’s mental health.
“Nutrients are needed to fuel our brain. If we’re not getting the nutrients in through diet, then we don’t have the nutrients to formulate our neurotransmitters, our neurochemicals, or regulate our blood sugar or hormones.”
There aren’t any set rules here. And we shouldn’t take any specific foods as gospel. But there are indicators that tell us diets high in Omega-3, B vitamins, amino acids, and minerals including zinc and iron, are all beneficial.
A study published by BMC Medicine in 2015, which involved more than 15,000 participants, found that Mediterranean diets lower the risk of depression. Olive oil and leafy vegetables are full of nutrients.
Often, one of the hardest moments of the day – for anyone, not just those who are unwell – is the morning. We might feel anxious of what’s ahead; we’re tired and there’s a lot to think about.
Brunetti has one dish that she believes puts you in the best position to get motivated: a breakfast of eggs on granary toast with avocado.
Eggs are full of important amino acids, Omega-3 and fatty acids, all of which are vital – our brains are 60 per cent fat. They need it. What’s more, avocado is rich in a nutrient called tryptophan. This chemical directly stimulates serotonin, which is responsible for regulating our mood.
Brunetti also says that regulating blood sugar is important for anyone with depression. Sugar lows are real, and it’s best to avoid the ‘crashing’ sensation we feel after a heavy does of sweetness.
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of sugar, of course. Chocolate contains trypyophan. The pleasure we feel when we eat it really does boost our mood. But, indeed, try not to rely too heavily on any one thing.