Depression is a common illness characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that people normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for 14 days or longer.
In addition, people with depression normally have several of the following: a loss of energy; a change in appetite; sleeping more or less; anxiety; reduced concentration; indecisiveness; restlessness; feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness; and thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
Lack of support for people with mental disorders, coupled with a fear of stigma, prevent many from accessing the treatment they need to live healthy, productive lives.
According to Beyond Blue, around one million Australian adults have experience depression in any one year.
Research published in PLoS ONE suggests one-in-five bowel cancer patients are depressed at the time of diagnosis.
The researchers reported that patients with self-reported depression were 13 times more likely to have very poor quality of life, which included experiencing problems with memory and thinking or with sexual functioning.
Of those patients surveyed, those who experienced depression at the time of diagnosis were seven times more likely to be in very poor health two years after treatment finished compared with bowel cancer patients without depression.
According to the findings, unless doctors ask cancer patients about other illnesses, concerns, and worries, it is possible important mental health issues will be overlooked.
Chris learned he had bowel cancer at the age of 54.
Despite everything he knew about mental health, he still struggled following his diagnosis.
“My advice to anyone else going through this is to give yourself sufficient time to adjust to the changes in your body,” Chris said.
“Seek support early [and] use every service that is made available to you.
“Most importantly - be kind to yourself!” said Chris.
Identifying those patients at greatest risk as soon after diagnosis as possible has the potential to revolutionise patient assessment and care planning and enhance patient care, according to researchers.
It’s important to note that depression can also develop during recovery.
According to studies by the University of Southampton and Macmillan Cancer Support, many bowel cancer patients experience a lack of affection, emotional and practical support after surgery and those lacking emotional support are almost three times more likely to have clinical depression.
Those that lacked social support, such as having someone to talk to or help with practical tasks like household chores, were at a greater risk of a poor quality of life.
For example, at diagnosis, 5% patients said they had little or no affection.
Two years after diagnosis, this almost tripled to 13%.
People can live well beyond bowel cancer, but support is vital in order to make a good recovery.
Bowel Cancer Australia has responded to this need through a range of support services, including our Peer-to-Peer Support Network which is made up of a specialised team of Bowel Care Nurses with expertise in intensive care, oncology, stomal therapy and rectal cancer along with our Bowel Care Nutritionist.
Offering the only national Bowel Care Nurse Helpline we continue our efforts to provide much-needed support for bowel cancer patients and their families across the continuum of care.
In addition, we provide an unrivaled suite of patient information, publications, and resources - including the highest ranking bowel cancer website in the country and the world-first bowel cancer app.
No one needs to face their problems alone.
Resources are available to support you or someone you know dealing with the psychological effects associated with bowel cancer.
Contact our Bowel Cancer Australia Helpline or the Beyond Blue Support Service at 1300 224 636.
If you need help immediately call Lifeline at 13 11 14.