TALK to someone and seek help early. This is the advice from the manager of the Exeter centre for national mental health charity Rethink which supports people suffering with depression and anxiety.
National figures suggest around one in four people will suffer from some form of mental illness in their lives.
This statistic is reflected here in Exeter and East Devon, and is expected to rise to one in three.
Over the past few weeks, the Echo has reported on a series of tragic deaths.
On Friday, June 28, a 15-year-old boy was struck by a high speed train near Honiton.
On Tuesday, July 9, the body of a woman in her early 30s was discovered at the base of cliffs west of Sidmouth.
The woman has been reported missing by a family member the night before with concerns for her welfare.
On Monday, July 29, the body of a 34-year-old woman was found at the foot of cliffs at Lympstone.
And on Monday, August 12, a 56-year-old man, understood to be from Wellington, was struck by a train travelling between Tiverton Parkway and Taunton.
In all cases, police have not treated the deaths as suspicious and inquests have been opened in order to determine the circumstances, so it is not yet known if any of the deaths are the result of suicide or followed mental health issues. But the spate of deaths has highlighted concerns.
Laura Lee is the service manager of the Housing and Floating Support branch of Rethink Mental Illness. In December the charity, which runs more than 250 services nationwide, presented the Alternative to Care Service with its Service of the Year award. Laura said the number of people it is helping in Exeter and East Devon with depression and other mental illnesses has doubled in the last year.
Her message to people suffering with depression or anxiety is to talk to someone and seek the support and advice of a GP, the Samaritans or a charity such as Rethink Mental Illness – and not to suffer in silence.
The charity supports people living with mental illnesses such as psychosis, schizophrenia and bipolar.
The charity currently receives around 10 to 15 referrals a week. Last year it was around seven to 10. "We're seeing a vast amount of people," Laura said. "We're seeing the effect of changes to the welfare system, for example to the capability assessment process – this has caused a huge amount of concern to people, and is particularly hard for people with mental health issues.
"The effects of mental illness aren't as easy to assess as physical illness where you can see what someone can or can't do."
Laura said the increase in referrals could also be due to the availability of services and increase in awareness of available help. The charity receives referrals from GPs and Community Mental Health Teams and from individuals.
"People are becoming more aware of depression and anxiety as a widespread issue, as media reports have highlighted," Laura continued.
People cope with the stresses and strains of everyday life as well as more significant events in different ways she added.
Some people, Laura said, are more susceptible to depression or anxiety, both of which are considered to be common mental illnesses.
Lifestyle choices, and something as simple as increasing exercise, can relieve the symptoms of depression.
"The term depression is so widely used it can mean different things to different people," Laura continued. "Some people are able to manage symptoms but for some people it can be debilitating.
"Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, a form of counselling, can be really useful to some people. Others may benefit from medication.
"Depression is a very slippery slope," she added. "Before you know it you can become quite isolated. We have been working with one man for example, who became depressed and stopped going out socially, lost his family and friends as he became more reclusive and eventually stopped going shopping and eating.
"But we've been going out to see him three or four times a week and he's been getting back into the activities he used to enjoy. Our advice would be to talk to family and friends about how you're feeling, that way they'll be able to understand rather than think you're pushing them away."
The charity helps in various ways including advice, supporting people in getting the help they require, group sessions such as relaxation, and home visits and support.
The charity also runs seven supported houses in the area with 37 beds in total, so people don't have to go into hospital.
Laura has suggested the following advice for people suffering in silence.
"There can be lots of reasons for symptoms of depression or anxiety," she said. "So a good first point of call is your GP.
"But speaking to family and friends can often help people cope with things and just speaking to someone and having their support can help alleviate these symptoms. People who are feeling suicidal can find support by calling the Samaritans. Alternatively they can phone 999 or walk into A&E."
Anyone wanting to find out more can call Rethink Mental Illness on 01395 224166. People needing information can call the Rethink Advice Line on 0300 5000 927.
The Samaritans are available 24 hours a day on 08457 909090.