Depression - notes from Dr Steve Critchlow's talk at the Kilmore Hotel


Here are my notes from the talk that Dr Steve Critchlow gave last night at the Hotel Kilmore in Cavan. I didn't get everything down, but hopefully this may be of some help.

Dr Critchlow will be speaking again this coming Monday (13th Feb) at 8pm in the Kilmore Hotel on the subject of suicide. Do come along and ask him any questions of clarification, or get in contact with me if you'd like to talk further about anything, you can contact me here.

Notes from the talk

Depression can present in all kind of ways, some descriptions of how it feels:

'I couldn't feel anything'

'I felt as if I was inside a very thick balloon and no matter how hard I pushed out I couldn't get out.'

Depression is being talked about more now which is a good thing, makes it easier for people to open up.

Depression is twice as common in women. (1 in 10 men, 1 in 4 women) and yet British men three times as likely to die by suicide as women. One of the reasons is that men don't talk about it, but more likely drink. Alcohol is involved in over a third of suicides. Alcohol is a depressant and makes people more depressed. 

What is depression?

Two weeks or more experiencing symptoms (1) or (2)  plus at least four of the other symptoms (3-9) for most of the time:

  1. Feeling low and down nearly all the time
  2. No interests or pleasure in anything
  3. Unable to sleep properly
  4. Loss of weight (sometimes gain in weight)
  5. Agitated or very slowed down
  6. No energy, tired all the time
  7. Feeling worthless or guilty
  8. Unable to concentrate
  9. Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide. 

Very important to find out if suicidal thoughts are there. Far better to talk about it. 


Bipolar (manic depression) is less common - about 10% the rate of unipolar. Tends to come on rather earlier in life and there is a stronger genetic component. Depressed and times of being hyper.

Possible causes:

Factors from childhood

  • Childhood experience - losing a mother ( or perhaps father, but with mother loss of nurturing figure, e.g. CS Lewes.) or absence of parents
  • Experience of physical of sexual abuse
  • Over-protective or non-caring parents
  • Personality - those prone to anxiety.

Factors from Adulthood

  • Stressful events
  • Loss through death, seperation or divorce
  • Loss of job or financial change for the worse
  • Loss of good health
  • Also situations of feeling trapped - e.g. Women at home with 3 or more dependent children and no one to confide in.
  • Rapid change in life events and multiple events
  • Higher risk, those faced divorce.
  • Farmers in rural areas, due to the isolation. 

Noradrenaline and Serotin

Lowering amounts of these key chemicals in the brain does bring on strong feelings of low mood for those who are susceptible.  Antidepressants tend to raise levels of serotin.

Helping those who are dperessed:

  • Be there for them (talking about it is very helpful). 
  • Gently encourage them to talk, don't force it, but spending time, allowing them to open up.
  • Encourage normal meals and sleep patterns
  • Encourage exercise - it is beneficial 
  • Encourage them to remain involved in life and not to withdraw.
  • Encourage them to stay off alcohol
  • Be aware of the risk of suicide and don't be afraid to ask.
  • If someone is seriously suicidal, don't leave them alone and try to get urgent professional help.
  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Counselling
  • Activity schedules - Recovery invovles helping people to socialise and become involved in activities. Daily planning of activities to give a sense of achievement.
  • Don't blame them and say 'you shouldn't be depressed.'
  • Don't say 'pull yourself together.'


Antidepressants take around 2 weeks to begin to work. Treatment needs to be given until recovery and for at least 6 months longer to prevent. They are not addictive but occasionally may suffer withdrawal effects. They help to restore the chemical imbalances in the brain.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)

Negative spiral can be triggered easily, e.g. If someone doesn't respond to you, it might make you feel that person doesn't like me, I'm no good. If depressed more likely to begin a negative spiral. Thinking then drives the emotion. When you think 'they don't like me' the you withdraw, thinking drives the behaviour.  CBT atttacks that at the level of thinking, help to show someone they are making conclusions that are not valid.

Can we prevent depression?

  • Deal with stresses.
  • Childhood experiences - dealing with anxiety
  • Dealing with negative thoughts - checking these against reality
  • Developing and maintain healthy patterns, exercise, diet. 

Can Christian faith help?

The Christian faith gives a measure of resilience, not saying that Christians don't get depressed. They do. But there is something in the Christian faith that is protective.

Christianity teaches that we are:

  1. Valued - each person is precious as made in the image of God - infinite value no matter how we feel.
  2. Loved - God is love. Love is demonstrated as you look at the life of Jesus Christ. John 3:16, God so loved... Knowing that we're loved gives value. 
  3. Forgiven - the beauty of the gospel is that there is a fresh start available. Many do not know the reality of the forgiveness. Psalm 103 says as far as the East is from the West so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
  4. Given purpose - the Gospel gives meaning, love God and love neighbour, gives strong purpose to life. 
  5. Part of a caring community (when we belong to the church).
  6. Empowered - The Holy Spirit empowers us - strength to overcome. 

Some helpful contacts:

SOSAD (Save our Sons and Daughters) (24hr helpline: 049 4326339)

Samaritans Helpline 116123

Aware helpline: 1890 303 302

And here's a talk that I've given on depression (second talk on this page).

And once again please get in contact with me or someone else, you don't need to struggle alone.