Ask the Expert: Managing Depression

The brain is the "command center" of the human body. It controls the basic functions of our bodies, our movements, and our thoughts and emotions. Within the brain, there are special chemicals called neurotransmitters that carry out many very important functions. Essentially, they help transfer messages throughout structures of the brain's nerve cells. These nerve cells, called neurons, are organized to control specialized activities. We each have somewhere between 10-100 billion neurons within our brains. Whenever we do anything, react, feel emotions, think, our neurons transmit messages in the form of electrical impulses from one cell to another.(

For brain tumour patients and their families, the news of a diagnosis can be devastating. Sometimes feeling overwhelmed, not knowing how to move forward and/or fear of what the future may bring can lead to depression, especially for patients.

This is completely normal. It is essential to treat depression as soon as symptoms arise, and the first step is to visit your family doctor. Your doctor may give you a referral to a specialist or prescribe medication. It is also recommended to talk with your treatment team’s social worker about resources available in your area.

It has also been found helpful to speak with a counselor, or to exercise. Physical activity can boost “feel-good” neurotransmitters and ease some of the anxiety or stress that can come with a diagnosis (source: Mayo Clinic). Other helpful activities include getting involved in something you believe in, maybe by volunteering with a local charity or event, or talking with others who are living with a brain tumour. Attending a brain tumour support group can allow you to meet people who are also on the journey with a brain tumour and find comfort in sharing similar experiences. We also offer Closed Facebook Support Groups which offer opportunities to connect online.

Communicating with your treatment team and getting as much information as possible also alleviates feelings of uncertainty and anxiety, which helps ease depression. Another resource to consider are the Brain Tumour Patient Handbooks. The handbooks provide information about the various treatment and care options for brain tumour patients.

It is important to remember that family members, caregivers and survivors can also experience severe depression, and many of the suggestions above can apply to them as well.

If you know of anyone experiencing thoughts of self-harm, do not leave them alone at any time. Call your local mental health crisis line immediately, and if one is not available, call 911.

Depression can be very disruptive to a person’s life. The good news is that there is help and you are not alone.

If you have questions about this information or how to manage depression, please contact Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada’s Support Services team at 1-800-265-5106.

Thank you to the Support Services Specialist at Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada for sharing this information on this important issue.


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