Depression: The Definitive Guide
“People think depression is sadness. People think depression is crying. People think depression is dressing in black. But people are wrong. Depression is the constant feeling of being numb. Being numb to emotions, being numb to life. You wake up in the morning just to go to bed again.” – Anonymous, Counseling with Natalie.com
It is highly probable that a majority of these 5,224 lives had been touched by depression.
Many people still assume that those suffering from depression simply need to ‘pull themselves together’, ‘cheer up’, or ‘snap out of it’, despite the obvious response being that if they could, they would.
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Security workers are statistically very likely to experience depression within their lifetimes and therefore present a worryingly high risk of suicide. This isn’t just hyperbole. The statement has a lot of evidence to support it. It is not only due to security workers being regularly subjected to violence and verbal abuse at work (experiences that are known to cause depression). It’s not even solely because they are at risk of developing a number of related mental health issues (for example, PTSD) as a result of these experiences. It is also because, while women are more prone to depression, the male suicide rate is much higher.
The security industry is 89.8% male, with the most common age range being 31 – 49 – the highest age and sex-specific suicide rate overall.
Therefore, the security industry primarily consists of employees from the groups most likely to experience depression and/or commit suicide. These employees are then subjected to experiences known to cause depression and related disorders on a daily (or nightly) basis, usually with little or no support offered to them should depression symptoms occur.
In this feature, we’ll be shining a much-needed light on depression within the context of British security workers, as well as answering questions such as ‘what is depression?’ and ‘what can be done to help alleviate depression?’. We’ll describe the symptoms of depression (some of which may surprise you) and attempt to increase understanding and awareness of this condition from a security-centric standpoint.
A 2016 study, published by the university of Ankara in Turkey, concluded that “Like police officers and gendarmes, private security guards are at high risk of committing and attempting suicide because of being at stressful work settings and also suffering from secondary trauma. It is required that they should be aware of their tendency to commit suicide and have regular psychiatric screenings”.
We wholeheartedly agree. As a result, you may consider this feature a humble, but firm footed, step in the right direction.
What is Depression?
Modern medicine considers depression to be a mood disorder. Depression is usually typified by intense feelings of sadness, anger, or loss that are strong enough to be distracting at best and debilitating (or even deadly) at worst.
These feelings usually centre around self-loathing or a significant loss of self-esteem. A depressed person can often feel that they aren’t important, that they don’t matter or that nobody would miss them if they disappeared or died suddenly.
Thoughts of suicide, usually referred to as suicidal ideation, may occur during this time. Passive suicidal ideation involves the sufferer thinking about ending their life or wishing they were dead, while active suicidal ideation involves actually making a plan to die.
Often, a person with depression experiences severe feelings of lethargy, as well as a near-complete loss of motivation or enthusiasm for things they would normally enjoy doing.
The word ‘depression’ also acts as an umbrella term for 3 distinct, but related, mood disorders. These are known as Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD), Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD).
DMDD, which is more common in children and adolescents and usually resolves itself by adulthood, is characterised in part by regular aggressive outbursts, including (but not limited to) verbal and physical aggression. It is a condition that almost entirely affects males.
MDD, the condition this feature will be mostly referring to when we use the word ‘depression’ , presents most commonly as a low mood which can lead to lethargy, apathy, and the feelings of hopelessness and loss of self-esteem described above.
If MDD symptoms continue for 2 years or longer without a break, the condition can be reclassified as ‘persistent’, hence the name ‘PDD’.
Perhaps understandably for a condition as misunderstood as depression, there are a lot of myths surrounding this ailment. Some of these (such as the oft-quoted “depression runs in families”) are partly true, though not as all-encompassing as people like to say. Others, such as “depression isn’t really an illness” are patently false – and particularly damaging.
The false assumption (which can come from the sufferer as much as those around them) that people with depression are simply lazy, weak-willed, or overly prone to self-pity is sadly very common.
People often find it hard to understand an ailment that presents few immediate physical symptoms. A crutch, cane, or walking stick, for example, is easy to understand and empathise with, as it presents a clear and obvious impediment to mobility. A person experiencing a bout of depression, on the other hand, may simply appear to be noncommittal, feckless, or overly tired, when in fact their condition is vastly more serious than that.
As we’ve seen, depression is a potentially fatal illness – and must always be treated as such.
“The only thing more exhausting than being depressed is pretending that you’re not.” — Anonymous, Reader’s Digest
What Causes Depression?
“Depression can happen to the most determined of people. It is not a sign of weakness – even powerful personalities can experience depression. Winston Churchill called it his ‘black dog’” – Dr. Raj Persaud, ‘The Mind: A User’s Guide’ (2007)
Depression can be caused by many things, including chemical imbalances in the brain, changes in the body’s hormone levels, a history of depression in the family, exposure to traumatic events (particularly during childhood), persistent or serious health conditions (particularly chronic pain, chronic illness, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, and others), lack of sleep or chronic insomnia, use of illegal drugs or even the structure of the brain itself.
Stress is also a leading cause of depression. If you have money problems, have trouble finding (or maintaining) employment, endure stressful personal or professional relationships or regularly suffer abuse such as workplace bullying, you are experiencing circumstances that can contribute, or even directly cause depression.
According to the Health & Safety Executive, 822,000 UK-based workers were suffering from workplace stress, depression, and anxiety, as of 2020-21.
Our 2021 study into violence against security workers found that 57% of UK security operatives had endured abuse, either physical or verbal, that negatively affected their mental state for 24 hours (or more) afterward.
Almost half of our respondents (48%) admitted to experiencing a nightmare or flashback relating to a specific incident. In addition to directly causing depression, experiences like this can be a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition intimately linked to depression.
Depression can also be caused by an upsetting experience, such as a professional setback, the end of a romantic relationship, or a painful bereavement. However, incidents such as these, while they can cause depression, can also cause temporary feelings of sadness, raising the risk of depression, but not actually causing it.
Depression, however, does not need any specific trigger. It can arrive (and depart) with no apparent reason at all.
Sex and Depression
“Depression is a common condition, and fortunately there are a number of effective treatments. It is an illness that people are often embarrassed to talk about, as they see it as a sign of weakness.” – Dr. Raj Persaud, ‘The Mind: A User’s Guide’ (2007)
Depression sometimes affects men differently to women, though anyone can be affected by the condition.
Given that the security industry is predominantly male (and includes work that places those employed within it at an increased risk of PTSD, depression, and other serious mental ailments), it’s reasonable to assume that a lot of male security workers have either experienced, or are actively suffering from, some form of depression.
Put simply, mental health, especially the mental health of Britain’s security workers, needs to be taken more seriously by everyone; employers, management, patrons and, most importantly, the workers themselves.
Typically, men are encouraged by society to practice emotional restraint and mask, or even deny, their true feelings. This ‘toxic masculinity‘ causes men to experience a variation of MDD known as ‘male depressive syndrome‘ (also known as ‘male depression‘).
This male-specific diagnosis includes behavioural symptoms such as becoming aggressive, irritable, or violent without prior provocation, engaging in antisocial behaviour, becoming obsessive about work or hobbies (also known as ‘escapist behaviour’), taking needless risks, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, illegal substance consumption, and indulging in an excess of sexual activity or encounters that provide little-to-no pleasure or satisfaction. It can also include physical symptoms such as headaches and digestive issues.
Trans men, for their part, appear more likely to develop depression due to what has been termed ‘minority stress theory‘. The theory suggests that sexual minorities are statistically more likely to develop depression and anxiety than the rest of the population due to an oppressive and hostile culture that actively excludes them and places them under threat. This would appear true for trans women as well, although it’s conceivable that a trans woman could experience male depressive syndrome also.
In general, women experience depression differently and for different reasons, some of which are related to patriarchy and feelings of persecution or powerlessness.
A 2019 study, published by the journal ‘Health Psychology’ found that women who regularly experience sexist abuse or discrimination are 3 times more likely to experience depression as other women.
In our 2022 study of the challenges faced by female security operatives, 17% of respondents spoke of being belittled, brushed aside, or otherwise disrespected by their male colleagues. This, together with the rigours of the job, put female security workers in a similarly perilous position to their male counterparts.
Depression, to a large extent, affects different people in different ways, with sex, gender, age, race and other factors all causing the condition to display differently, and even to have different causes.
Depression can be caused by the sufferer belonging to a persecuted minority, or it can have more personal causes. In many cases, more than one cause is applicable.
Despite many years of dogged research and rigorous investigation, depression has yet to yield many of its secrets.
Symptoms of Depression
According to the NHS, symptoms of depression can include:
- Continuous low mood or sadness
- Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
- Feelings of guilt
- Low self-esteem
- Becoming easily irritated, angry or intolerant of others
- Feeling tearful or overly emotional
- Feeling unmotivated or disinterested in things that would usually motivate or interest you
- Lack of enjoyment
- Feeling anxious or afraid
- Suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself in some way
Physical symptoms may include:
- Loss of sexual desire
- Changes in appetite, leading to noticeable fluctuations in weight (either gain or loss)
- Moving or speaking more slowly than usual
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Lack of energy
- Changes to the menstrual cycle (in women)
- Difficulty sleeping, or other changes to your sleep pattern
Social symptoms of depression can include:
- Avoiding interaction with family and friends
- Neglecting hobbies and interests
- Alienating or experiencing conflict with family and friends
Male depression, for its part, is less often diagnosed and often goes unnoticed (sometimes even by the sufferer). In many cases, sadness isn’t even the primary symptom of male depression. Many times, physical pain (such as headaches, digestive issues, or aching muscles) will take the place of emotional pain for a depressed man.
A man who dedicates an unfeasible amount of time to work without a break (becoming, in effect, a ‘workaholic’) may be experiencing male depression. Likewise, a man who is needlessly aggressive or irritable, who drinks heavily on a regular basis, or even one who is controlling and/or abusive in relationships may also be suffering from undiagnosed male depression.
For the most part, men are less likely to seek professional help than women. Women, though more prone to depression, also tend to have stronger and more able support networks than men. Men also tend to ‘brush off’ or downplay their symptoms as not being important. They can be very resistant to discuss their issues and will often greatly resist seeking help of any kind. As a result, male depression is very common, but not as commonly diagnosed.
According to America’s National Institute for Mental Health, men are at risk from 4 main forms of depression, each a sub-type of MDD. These are:
- Psychotic Depression – Psychotic depression is a severe condition characterised by delusions (i.e., false beliefs that the sufferer is convinced are factual), as well as visual and auditory hallucinations (usually related to the delusions). The sufferer may hear voices telling him that he is worthless, for example, or become convinced that he is sick when he is, in fact, quite physically healthy.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – Seasonal Affective Disorder (or ‘SAD’) occurs during the winter months and is caused by diminished sunlight.
- Minor Depression – With minor depression, the symptoms are similar to both MDD and PDD, but they are less severe and do not persist for as long.
- Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD) – As discussed above, PDD occurs when depressive symptoms endure for an extended period.
At this juncture, it is also worth mentioning bipolar disorder, although it should be noted that this is different from depression. Bipolar disorder, previously known as ‘manic depression’, is a condition that sees extreme low moods and depression symptoms off-set by periods of extreme high moods known as ‘mania’. Bipolar requires a different discussion for a different feature, but it’s worth noting that its symptoms (and some treatments) will be similar to those mentioned in this article.
Some types of depression can be a lifelong struggle, but all forms of depression are treatable to some extent. In addition to seeking professional help (see the final section of this feature for details on how to do this), depression can be managed (in some cases, even alleviated) in a number of ways. Here are a few of them.
Get more exercise – This can be very difficult to begin with, as depression very often goes hand-in-hand with intense feelings of fatigue or lethargy. However, with enough time, these feelings (and likely the depression itself) will ease considerably.
You might like to start small, with gentle, manageable exercises such as going for a walk once a day or a bit of light jogging. When you feel able, you may consider joining a gym or taking up yoga, both of which can be very beneficial to a person suffering from depression. Further information can be found by clicking HERE.
Try to get more sleep – Depression typically impacts the sleep pattern, with insomnia or an irregular sleep schedule being considered as both a cause and a symptom of depression.
An adult requires around 8 hours of sleep to function successfully, but so few of us actually get that. The pressures of work, parenthood, household chores, paying bills, social situations and many more may mean that, even if you’re lucky enough to get to bed with 8 hours to go before the alarm goes off, you might not be able to sleep at all.
Thankfully, there are numerous ways to improve your existing sleep pattern, chief among them being the installation of a strict sleeping schedule which should not be deviated from. However, in cases where this won’t work, there are still options available to you. Click HERE to learn more.
Identify your stressors (and combat them) – Depression can be caused, or worsened, by external factors such as relationships, bereavements, debt, or even the often-grim contents of the nightly news cycle. It’s different for everyone, but everyone has some form of stressor.
Problems that seem insurmountable (such as those concerning money or loved ones) can often worsen depression and increase the feelings of hopelessness and despair that the sufferer already feels.
If you feel able, write down a list of your Top 5 stressors and try to develop a strategy for dealing with each one.
A debt consolidation service or side business may help with money troubles, as could reaching out to a more affluent friend or relative for a loan.
By the same token, marriage counselling or a greater emphasis on ‘couple-only’ time (such as a designated weekly ‘date night’) may help with relationship issues.
Issues of loneliness may potentially be remedied via online dating (at the very least, you’ll have some new stories to tell!).
When it comes to the news, you can try following a more optimistic or up-beat news service such as The Good News Network or Positive News. There are a lot of happy and wholesome news stories that get pushed off the front page by anxiety-inducing headlines, which garner more attention and are deemed as being more urgent.
Of course, sometimes the best thing to do is simply ‘unsubscribe’ or switch the news off!
Nothing is cured overnight, but whatever your stressors, there will be at least a way to make them better. This will ease your mind and, in turn, ease your depression.
Practice relaxation techniques – Meditation has been scientifically proven to offer a huge amount of health benefits. It reduces stress, enables you to think more clearly, aids anxiety, enables you to evaluate complex issues more clearly and has a number of physical benefits as well, including improving blood pressure, managing pain and aiding sleep. A beginner’s guide to meditation can be found HERE.
Other techniques that can help include practicing gratitude verbally or keeping a gratitude journal, or simply setting aside some time each night (even if it’s just 5 minutes) to sit quietly and relax. Notice the small blessings that populate each and every day and celebrate them.
When at home, surround yourself with things that make you smile, be it a child’s drawings, a poster of your favourite movie, a childhood toy, or an ornament that reminds you of a loved one.
Create coping mechanisms at work – Little things, such as taking short breaks where possible, calling a friend of relative on your breaks, cultivating friendships with colleagues and avoiding isolation can have big impacts on your working day.
It can also help to contact your manager or your employer’s Human Resources department and inform them of your struggles. A lot of companies will be glad to offer help if you request it.
Improve your diet – A more healthy, balanced diet can give you more energy, which can take the edge off some of the lethargy caused by depression, allowing you to make a few more of the changes listed here.
Adding more fresh fruit and veg, whole grains, fish, eggs, and healthy fats (such as olive oil) to your diet can really help you. More information can be found HERE.
Help somebody else – Take a few minutes to do something nice for somebody else. Donate to charity, send a friend a supportive or complimentary message, sign a petition to aid a good cause, or help an elderly person carry their bags or cross the street. These small, everyday acts of kindness can help you to feel better about yourself, as well as benefiting others in your community.
Random acts of kindness shift your focus away from inner delusions and fixations and allow you to reconnect in a positive way with the wider community around you.
It’s also OK to think about all the good things you’ve done at the end of the day and pat yourself on the back.
Laugh, a lot – Try to spend time talking to people that really make you laugh. When you’re not doing that, be sure to watch funny TV and movies, or read something that makes you laugh. As the old axiom has it, “laughter is the best medicine”. It was true then, and it’s true now.
The health benefits of laughter are many and numerous, including reducing stress hormones, providing a sense of perspective and offering a positive physical release (as opposed to self-harm such as punching a wall).
Read Regularly – Reading can give you something to focus on besides feelings of hopelessness or self-loathing. It can be a novel, a non-fiction book about a subject that interests you, a magazine, a comic book or a blog. It doesn’t really matter what it is, so long as you enjoy it.
Take a shower – This is especially useful for sufferers of anxiety. Taking a shower helps you to feel clean and comfortable in your own skin. It can also take your mind away from any negative thoughts. Try to imagine the warm water washing away the day’s troubles. The same can be true for a hot, relaxing bath.
Go Outside – Exposure to the sun (especially for those afflicted by SAD) is an absolute must. Going for a walk, or even sunbathing on a warm day can boost your serotonin levels and improve your mood. Any interaction with nature is good for the soul.
We also highly recommend listening to music you enjoy, playing with your pets, spending time with any nieces, nephews, or children you may have, visiting friends or family (a change of scenery can be very effective) and, above all, giving yourself permission to be happy.
Remind yourself constantly of the people, places, memories, and things that make you happy – and try to keep your focus there. Remember that energy flows where attention goes, so keep your mind on positive things and try to make positivity your default mental state, as opposed to the negative feelings and anxieties you might be tempted to dwell on.
You should also understand that some days will be worse than others, so don’t blame, pressure, or punish yourself if you can’t do any of the things suggested above right now. It’s OK to feel bad, but you should also be able to forgive yourself for feeling bad
Remember also that all moods, good, bad, or indifferent, are only ever temporary. The way you feel now won’t be forever. Forgive yourself for the way you feel now and remind yourself that it isn’t permanent.
On their own, each of these activities and mindsets may seem trivial, even mundane – yet, when performed with the purpose of managing depression, each has been scientifically or anecdotally proven to have a positive effect on the sufferer. You may not be able to make every single change on this list, but you will likely feel the benefits from even a few of them.
Negative thoughts can prove a very challenging and painful aspect of depression. It’s worth noting, however, that we all experience negative thoughts and impulses from time to time. It’s also not uncommon to feel bad about yourself after a personal failure or setback of some kind, but if these thoughts become commonplace, or supersede your healthier self-beliefs, you are likely experiencing depression.
Depression typically involves what is called ‘all or nothing’ thinking, whereby a person deals almost entirely in absolutes, often disregarding logic in the process.
A depressed person will very often think of themselves as a complete, unequivocal failure simply because a few things aren’t going right in their life. They may overlook a happy relationship, wonderful friendships and a loving family, or any number of other accomplishments (rewarding career, money in the bank, a healthy body, and literally anything else) in order to fixate upon on their perceived shortcomings and brand themselves as ‘completely useless’, ‘stupid’, ‘talentless’ or ‘a total waste of space’.
All-or-nothing thinking essentially states that, by falling short of perfection in any area of life, the sufferer has failed utterly in every area of life. These feelings are often accompanied by feelings of guilt (often misplaced, overly powerful or even completely irrational), self-recrimination and blame.
Overgeneralisation is also a key component of depressive thinking. An example of overgeneralisation might be making (or thinking) blanket statements, such as “I fail at everything I try to do” or “I can’t get anything right”
Depressive thinking also includes diminishing or ‘explaining away’ the more positive aspects of one’s life. A depressed person very often fixates on the things that aren’t working, as opposed to the things that are. A depressed person could paint a masterpiece but still throw it away because of one tiny paint smudge.
As part of this habit of diminishing the positive, depressive mindsets concoct (often faulty) reasoning that supports their assertions about themselves or the world in general. This may include thoughts like “sure, my parents love me, but only because I’m their offspring” or “my friends don’t really care about me, they just feel sorry for me”. It all feeds into the delusion (often a deeply held belief) that the person thinking these thoughts is worthless and a drain on all those around them.
These negative self-beliefs and assertions are often transferred onto others. The cashier at the supermarket may simply be bored, but the depressed person interprets her exhalations and beleaguered tone as somehow being a judgement of them that, of course, supports their self-delusions. Depressed people frequently adopt the roles of behavioural experts (or even mind readers!) when they are, in fact, very much the opposite.
Another, related tendency is to forecast the future, usually asserting that things will always be the way they presently are and that circumstances will only change if they worsen. Again, this is a total delusion, even if there appears to be evidence to back it up. A person who has been stuck in an unenjoyable job for 10 years may have cause to believe that there is no way out for them, even as that limiting belief stops them seeking further employment or qualifications.
A lot of depressed people hold themselves to impossibly high standards, only to be very harsh on themselves when they don’t live up to those standards. This, in turn, affirms and strengthens their own negative beliefs, acting as ‘evidence’ of their self-delusion, when in fact it is anything but.
For a person in the throes of depression, everything feeds into the negative beliefs. They didn’t get that job because they’re a talentless loser. Their partner left them because they’re unlovable. They’re broke because they’re talentless and stupid, etc.
Taken together, these negative thoughts form a phenomenon known as ‘cognitive distortion‘, whereby self-destructive thought patterns proliferate to the point that they come to dominate the person’s self-image and ultimately find their expression in bouts of depression, anxiety, or various forms of self-sabotage or self-harm.
If you’re depressed while reading this feature, you’ve probably noticed your own mind scrambling to compare your personal failings to the examples mentioned, in the twisted hope of proving that yours are legitimate failings, and that you really are helpless, hopeless and a lost cause.
This is because delusions don’t like to be challenged, but let us assure you that whoever you are, whatever you’ve done and whatever setbacks you’ve faced so far, YOU have something to offer the world and more people than you think love and care about you deeply. Your thoughts and anxieties are lying to you. You are far, far more important than you think you are.
Psychologists generally view negative thought cycles and depression as a kind of ‘chicken and egg’ arrangement, in that either can come first and each can cause the other to manifest. Often, both occur at the same time, forming a vicious cycle from which it can be very difficult to break free.
Fortunately, there are a lot of things you can do to break free from depressive thought cycles. The first (and most powerful) action you should take is simply to acknowledge falsehoods whenever you mentally encounter them.
When you find yourself thinking negative thoughts about yourself or your place in the world, try to root out the ones that are obvious generalities or outright lies. “Nobody loves me” almost certainly isn’t true, for example. “I’ve failed at everything I’ve ever tried” isn’t true either, because nobody has ever failed at everything. It is, quite frankly, impossible.
From here, you can take your thought to court, requesting evidence from your mind to back-up this assertion, the way you might have to when giving evidence in a courtroom. After all, you could not convict a stranger of any crime without evidence. Why convict yourself?
So, present yourself with your own reasoning. For example, you may have failed to be successful as, say, a performance artist, but you may have succeeded in other areas of your life. Therefore, you have not failed at everything – and this thought is a falsehood.
Also, don’t confuse financial success with artistic or emotional success. They are not – and never have been – the same thing. So, if your artistic endeavours failed to yield financial fruit, it does not mean that they were without artistic merit. If your art moved somebody, even if that somebody was just you, then it succeeded in at least one of its aims and was not – and cannot reasonably be considered – a failure.
If “you’re never going to find love again” consider that you found it once before and, prior to that discovery, you probably felt as if you would be unable to find it even that time. This thought is an example of what psychologists sometimes term ‘forecasting’ and is an irrational viewpoint quickly torn asunder by even a brief glance at your own romantic history (together with the histories of those around you).
Fact: every blanket statement you make about yourself is a lie – and that’s the truth.
As the old song goes, you’ve got to accentuate the positive. When you find yourself tumbling headfirst down the rabbit hole of negativity, find something positive, something you like or can be happy about and focus instead on that. There’s always something to like, no matter where you are or what you’re doing. It’s just a matter of finding it and focussing on it.
It also helps to try to keep perspective. A loss of perspective is common among people with depression, but perspective is worth fighting for. Your life isn’t worthless or ruined just because of 1, 2 or even 1000 mistakes, failures, or setbacks.
You may have missed a penalty and cost your team the championship, but at least you made it to the final – and that’s a huge accomplishment. In the majority of cases, people with depression hold themselves far more accountable than anybody else does.
In many cases, learning CBT techniques will help more than anything we’ve listed so far. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a type of talking therapy aimed at reversing or changing negative behaviours or mindsets. A qualified therapist (see the final section for more details) can certainly help in this regard, but if, for some reason, you are unable to see a therapist, a lot of techniques are available, for free, online. Videos such as
can be very helpful indeed. There’s a wealth of information out there waiting for you.
We all want to be happy, but people with depression often feel that happiness is an impossibility for them. This is, quite frankly, not the case at all. In fact, it’s just another mental barrier for you to drive through.
Security Work and Depression
As we’ve said before, security workers face a high risk of experiencing depression. Also, because security workers tend to put up with a lot anyway and are mostly male, they are somewhat unlikely to seek help for this, or any other mental health condition.
Some security operatives may be so used to ‘just getting on with it’, that they may not even know that they are living with a life-threatening mental illness. This sets a very dangerous precedent indeed.
Security operatives endure long hours, regularly face physical and mental exhaustion, are often grossly underpaid, and forced to work in understaffed positions, doing a job intended for multiple operatives by themselves. This is all before we get to the regular verbal abuse, heated confrontations, and violence security operatives face on a nightly basis.
These circumstances can lead to operatives becoming ‘hyper alert’ after too much time monitoring crowded areas for trouble without a break. They can also find themselves experiencing chronic stress, tension, exhaustion, and irritability – none of which make them better at their jobs
The more tired those trained eyes become, the less likely they will be to spot trouble before it starts. The more overworked and underappreciated those workers become, the less dedication and energy they will be able to muster when it is required of them to help others in need.
Physiologically speaking, the more stress a person endures, the more likely they are to enter into ‘fight or flight‘ mode, a natural response to stressful conditions or experiences that basically floods the body with hormones compelling them to either deal with the situation (potentially aggressively) or simply escape from it at all costs.
Chronic stress, which is defined as long-term stress over which the person feels they have no control, can have a very deleterious effect on that person’s mental health and can exacerbate, or even cause, depression.
To make matters worse, businesses commonly view security as what is euphemistically referred to as a ‘cost centre’, meaning that they see it as an expense that generates no revenue to off-set its initial cost. Accordingly, in today’s cash-strapped times, CEOs, managers, and other employers are looking to cut down on these non-profitable areas by simply spending less money on them.
In the worst cases, this can mean less staff, less training, fewer employee benefits or bonuses, outmoded, low-performance equipment and little or no support for those tasked with the vital job of keeping their premises, customers and the public safe.
It is also a sad truth that a security operative, team, or firm’s success is very often measured by their failures, not their successes. A security operative can keep a venue safe every night for years with little, if any, appreciation outside of a regular paycheck, but one slip-up can cost them their reputation and livelihood.
All of this places yet more stress on the shoulders of an already over-taxed workforce that continues to lace up their boots every day and do their best for everyone concerned.
There isn’t a magic solution to many of these issues. However, any situation can be improved via the proper application of a positive mindset. Apply the techniques listed earlier and you should find that, although you may not be able to control your situation, you can certainly control your response to it.
The good news is that, if you’re an employer, you do have a lot of opportunities to improve the lives of your employees and lessen their risk of depression.
For starters, don’t place security operatives on the doors by themselves, as this is an unsafe and unprofessional working practice for many reasons, including the increased risk of PTSD, anxiety, depression, accidents, and physical harm.
Secondly, you should create and cultivate a positive company culture by ensuring that a) your employers can speak openly with the company about their mental health and that b) they can be assured that they will be listened to respectfully and that the company will do all in its power to help them.
How many people remember their school days, when they were repeatedly told to “tell the teacher” if they were being bullied, only to find that the teacher did nothing to help them and the bullying intensified as a result of their making it public?
We have learned lessons such as these from a tender age, that talking about a problem or trusting an authority figure creates a vulnerability that can then be exploited. Indeed, many instances of depression stem from experiences such as these. These are lessons we can – and must – unlearn.
Make your company one where an employee’s issues are the company’s issues, where the employee can be assured of a sympathetic ear and a strong will to assist them.
Be sure also to show your employees that you appreciate them. Don’t let your security team be measured only by its failures. Compliment them on a job well done and see to it that they are regularly rewarded for their hard work.
Be sure also to keep up their training (as there are many security firms that are lacking in this area) and keep all equipment as up to date as possible. Basically, any step you can take to make their lives easier will go some way towards improving their mental health.
How can I Help Someone with Depression?
“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do” – Stephen Fry
If you have no personal experience of depression, it can be hard to know how to react to a person experiencing it. It’s important to note that the person is not being ‘lazy’, ‘selfish’ or ‘deliberately difficult’. In all probability, they are trying their best and, in some cases, fighting for their lives.
You must NEVER, under any circumstances, use phrases like “snap out of it”, “get over it”, “suck it up and move on”, “deal with it” or any variation thereupon. Even positive, heartfelt sentiments meant to motivate are likely to do more harm than good.
Equally poor choices are sentiments such as “we all feel down from time to time” or “I’ve been sad before as well”. For one, their suffering isn’t about you and for two, they’re not ‘sad’, they’re depressed, which is a clinical condition with different symptoms and treatments entirely. Although they may be a well-intentioned attempt at empathy, sentiments such as these can actuality trivialise and belittle a very serious condition.
Avoid weary, overused platitudes such as “it could be worse” or the dreaded “it’s all in your head”, as these too will offer little comfort and are more likely to have the opposite effect to that intended.
Think about a time after a painful separation that you were told “don’t worry. There’s plenty more fish in the sea” (it’s happened to everybody at least once) did it help you?
Understanding, empathetic phrases such as “it must be really tough for you” and “I’m sorry you’re going through this” are powerful, as are phrases like “I’m here for you if you need me” and questions such as “how can I help you?”
It is also a good idea to reinforce the fact that depression is a real illness, reminding them that a lot of people suffer from it and that there is a wealth of information available at the local library or online. The person’s internal narrative may involve blaming themselves for being “weak” or “difficult” (and, indeed, less enlightened people may have said this to them). A gentle reminder that their struggle is real and exists can contribute to a silent victory in many cases.
You might want to avoid saying things like “I understand what you’re going through” unless you have direct personal experience of depression. Even then, every person experiences depression differently. What worked for you may not work for them. You must also avoid being confrontational.
It also helps to be honest with people about your positive feelings towards them. People (especially men) often have difficulty expressing how they truly feel about those close to them and, in some cases, a long-time friend or beloved family member passes away without ever being told how you feel about them.
It can help to slip into conversation (but not make the focal point of the conversation) that you admire or appreciate something about them. Are they a loyal friend? A good parent? Did they help you through hard times? A depressed person may not react to these sentiments, but they will appreciate them, as they serve to counter the aggressively negative narrative going on in their own minds.
Remind them also that a lot of other people love and care about them, such as parents, their spouse(s), siblings, friends, colleagues, and others. A depressed person may have ceased caring about themselves, but they will still care deeply about those around them and may be willing to work through their depression or seek help in order to avoid hurting those they care about.
You must always listen carefully and intently to what the depressed person tells you. We’ve written elsewhere about active listening, which will serve you very well in these cases.
Never ignore comments or jokes about suicide (even the ones that seem innocent enough), references to death or dying, or euphemisms for same, such as ‘going away from here’, joining a deceased loved one or ‘not being around anymore’. These are major red flags, and you must alert the person’s therapist or a doctor as soon as you can.
Depressed people require patience and understanding and do not respond well to pressure. In fact, pressuring or criticising them is one of the worst things you can possibly do.
If you have a close relationship with the person in question, you may be able to assist them by helping to set up a doctor’s appointment, or even going with them on the day.
Many depression sufferers (particularly men) will be reluctant to engage in counselling or talking therapies, but may be willing to seek medical help for physical symptoms, such as aches and pains and feelings of fatigue or being ‘burned out’ or ‘run down’. Be supportive and encouraging about any attempts to seek treatment.
Sadly, doctors in the UK frequently overlook mental health issues as possible causes for physical health problems, so a person with depression may end up simply being sent away empty handed, or else given a medicine that is unlikely to work.
In such cases, it helps to pull up first-hand accounts of people who live with depression (some of which have been presented to you in this article) and see if your friend relates to any of them. If so, you can help them self-refer for CBT or talking therapy on the NHS (links will be provided at the end).
It will also help to educate yourself on depression as much as you possibly can, especially if the sufferer is unwilling or unable to.
Try to involve the person in outdoor activities and social gatherings, but don’t pressure them if they decline. Let them know that they are welcome and invited, but that they aren’t letting anybody down if they don’t go. Sometimes it helps just to stay with them playing video games, watching movies, or simply listening to music and chatting together.
Reminding the person that no emotional state is permanent and that their depression will eventually lift will help a lot as well.
Always encourage communication between the person suffering and their healthcare provider or therapist. Be sure that they report any concerns about their medication, changes in mood, suicidal thoughts or similar. Sometimes, depressed people will push their therapists and doctors away, which can be a very bad sign.
Male depression can be especially difficult. To open up a conversation with a depressed man, you may wish to start by avoiding the word ‘depression’ entirely and substituting it for ‘tired’, ‘drained’ or ‘run down’, which may be words the man prefers to use.
As before, you might help him to make an appointment to see a doctor, helping him to compile a list of his symptoms and accompanying him to the appointment. He may agree to see a GP, but not a therapist. If you are particularly concerned for his safety, you might opt to let the GP know subtly (for instance, via an email or phone call prior to the appointment) that you believe your friend to be depressed and possibly at risk.
Above all, try to keep them as tethered to the world as you can without pressuring them. If they’ll let you, you might like to pick up some shopping for them or handle a few of their day-to-day tasks, such as washing clothes, preparing food, or cleaning dishes. Small things like that can really help a person with depression.
With that all being said, all you can really do is your best. With depressed friends, your job is simply to be the best friend you can possibly be. Be the person you would want helping you if the roles were reversed.
Nobody gets it 100% right and, honestly, there is sometimes nothing you can do, but if you do your best, nobody can ever ask anything more of you.
Always ensure that your actions are guided by love, patience and empathy and you won’t go far wrong.
Where can I get Help for Depression?
Here in the UK, our wonderful NHS offers mental health services free of charge.
There are urgent mental health helplines, talking therapies (such as counselling and CBT) and more besides. It is possible to self-refer for therapy, or to be referred via your GP. The world is starting to take mental health a lot more seriously (at last!), so help that may not have been available once upon a time is available now.
Other organisations, such as The Samaritans, Mind, and Depression UK are easily contactable and always happy to help. Depression UK, in particular, offers support groups in many local areas, while The Samaritans are free to listen to you (without judgement or charge) at any time.
The following link contains a number of other useful phone numbers and websites.
One of the ways that depression fools those who suffer from it is the nagging, persistent assertion that “nobody will understand” or that “you won’t be able to tell anybody”. Thoughts like this serve to isolate the sufferer from their community and those around them. However, there is NOTHING a person could say to a therapist, support line worker or mental health professional that they haven’t heard before. Nothing.
If you have depression, remember that your dark thoughts are lying to you and that there is always, ALWAYS light at the end of the tunnel, even if sometimes you can’t see it.