Navigating Depression – charting a course through challenging times

Posted: 14/02/2024

Innovative Resources released its newest card set to the world just before Christmas, when friends and colleagues of psychologist and author, Kate Skilbeck, gathered in Ballarat to launch Navigating Depression.

With stunning illustrations and design by Castlemaine artist, Sharon Dunn, Navigating Depression draws on the metaphor of life’s journey to create person-centred conversations about the lived experience of chronic sadness and depression.

Kate Skilbeck brings almost 30 years of experience as a psychologist, training consultant and mindfulness teacher, to Navigating Depression. In addition to her direct client work, she has provided professional supervision for psychologists, social workers, mental health nurses and clinicians, counsellors, youth workers, school wellbeing staff, teachers, doctors, nurses, managers and CEOs.

Kate also teaches the highly regarded 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program, and other programs, such as the Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression.

‘Over the years I’ve worked up close and personal with people who suffer chronic states of distress and mental illness,’ she said. ‘A diagnosis of depression brings a whole other level of challenging thoughts feelings and emotions.

‘We know that one in five people in this country will experience a mental illness—it’s a big problem to tackle—but we also know there are things we can do to help navigate these situations more skillfully and kindly.’

Navigating Depression was launched by Innovative Resources’ managing editor, Dr Sue King-Smith, who described the journey metaphor as incredibly fertile ground for having conversations around mental wellbeing.

‘The metaphor can be used in so many ways,’ she said. ‘The idea of being able to chart a course—to create agency and choice—is a really powerful one.’

The 40 cards that make up Navigating Depression each feature a visually engaging image, accompanied by a simple question, sentence starter or strategy. The five diverse characters who inhabit the cards portray the common and lived experience of depression.

Kate explained that Navigating Depression’s great strength is the broad range of interventions and modalities that have influenced its creation.

‘We’ve drawn from an enormous body of knowledge—mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, narrative therapy, positive psychology, cognitive behavioural therapy, neuroscience—the whole field of post traumatic growth,’ she explained.

‘The cards are not about pathologising, but rather exploring. Depression is complex. Navigating Depression creates a safe space to discover, learn and reflect on our mental wellbeing, our physical health, the way we’re behaving and being in the world. It’s a deep dive into “what’s going on” for us.’

At the launch of Navigating Depression, Kate used the ‘Observing Thoughts’ card as just one example of an incredibly powerful skill to learn when we’re working with low mood.

‘Often with depression comes a depressed mindset,’ she explained. ‘Thoughts of “I’m not worthy”, “I’m broken”, “No one cares”, or “I’m all alone”. If we can learn to observe these thoughts, we can often find a new perspective—a new way of positioning and orienting.

‘Now, when I have certain kinds of thoughts, I’ll say to myself, “Ah, there’s my mind saying that thing again”, and instead of being hijacked by that thought and believing it’s true, I can recognise that it’s not helpful—and maybe even orient my way of feeling and experiencing that thought in a new way.’

With this in mind, the cards are a great tool for exploring our patterns of thought and recognising warning signs. As Kate explained, ‘if I get really stressed I might overthink things, then I might not sleep well, then I’ll have a lower mood.

‘If we can know these patterns, we have a much better chance of managing our thoughts and developing strategies moving forward—we can be really wise.’

When it comes to the range of applications for using the cards, the sky is the limit. While they are perfect for psychologists, counsellors and wellbeing practitioners working one-to-one, they are also ideal for exploring self-care, burnout and vicarious trauma.

‘We all go through challenging moods and stressful times,’ Kate said. ‘Navigating Depression can enhance anyone’s wellbeing toolkit and is a perfect companion for self-reflection and journalling—our own personal map for charting a course through challenging times.’

Kate also sees the cards having an important role to play in secondary school settings to help build knowledge about mental health and wellbeing.

Many people working in the mental health space have already discovered Navigating Depression’s special magic in transforming their work with others.

Principal Practitioner at Counselling First Professional Services, Kristine Clements, says the cards have facilitated a deeper level of communication and understanding in sessions with her clients.

‘The questions on each card gently encourage clients to open up about their thoughts, emotions, and struggles associated with depression,’ Kristine said. ‘Clients who initially found it difficult to verbalise their feelings, felt more at ease and empowered to share their experiences using the prompts on the cards.

‘The cards support clients to identify and explore potential solutions to their challenges—alternative perspectives, coping mechanisms, and self-care strategies.’

Perhaps the greatest endorsement for Navigating Depression comes from author and Emeritus Professor of Clinical Psychology at Oxford University, Mark Williams. Dr Williams is the co-developer of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), a modality designed to prevent relapse and recurrence in major depression.

In his foreword to Navigating Depression, he describes the moments of hope, ‘where we glimpse the possibility of change.

‘We gradually discover that we don’t need to take our negative thoughts so personally,’ he writes. ‘That we are stronger than we think and have within ourselves more resources, more wisdom and more kindness than we knew.

Navigating Depression will be a huge help in identifying those hopeful moments and building on them to create a new life. May they be, for all who use them, a place where new possibilities are found.’


by John Holton

6 responses to “Navigating Depression – charting a course through challenging times”

  1. Sue Guzick says:

    Do you have some example card images for Navigating Depression? Looks like a good set but hard to see from one image.
    Thanks so much!

    • Chris Cain says:

      Hello Sue. We are happy to email you some images so that you can get a better idea of the content.

  2. Mark Davies says:

    Great to see that this is happening. Please could you also send me by email some images and wording from the Navigating Depression card set.
    Much appreciated. Mark Davies (Counsellor) 23 Whitcombe Terrace
    Hokitika 7810 New Zealand

    • Sue says:

      Hi Mark, I apologise for the late reply. Thanks so much for your comment. We would be happy to email you some images and information about Navigating Depression cards – I’ll get them to you today.

  3. Sophia Cheng says:

    Hi Could you please send me some images and information on the ND cards please. Thanks.

    • Sue says:

      Hi Sophia, thanks for your question. I will email you some images and information. We would love to know what you think!

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