Mental Health

“Mental health is a sickness just like diabetes and heart problems.”

- Betty Jordan

What is depression?

Mother and daughter hugging

We often use the word “depressed” when we’re describing a feeling of being a bit down, but real depression is a serious illness. When someone feels down for an extended period of time, and it starts to affect the way they function, they could be clinically depressed.

During any one year, as many as 1 in 10 people will experience a depressive episode.

There are several different types of depression, some with more severe symptoms than others. The symptoms of depression, according to the Merck Manuals, can include:

• A feeling of sadness, irritability, anxiety, worthlessness and a sense of guilt
• A loss of interest in activities formerly enjoyed
• Decreased sexual interest
• Changes in sleep patterns
• Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
• Weight loss or weight gain
• Neglect of self-care, or care of children or pets
• Suicidal thoughts

No one really can say what exactly causes depression, but sometimes the cause can be biological, or because of hormonal factors, or hereditary, or because of side effects of certain medication or recreational drugs you are taking.

Some diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease or thyroid disease can cause depression. Traumatic events, such as a death in the family, or a divorce can trigger depression in some people. Ongoing stress is another culprit.

There are many different treatments for depression, depending on how severe it is. Sometimes mild depression can be treated with psychotherapy alone, but moderate to severe depression may require antidepressant medication as well. Most of these medications take several weeks to become effective.

In severe cases, it may be necessary to go to hospital, but in the vast majority of cases depression can be managed with psychotherapy and medication alone.

(Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is to provide general background information and not to substitute any medical diagnosis or advice received from a qualified healthcare professional.)


1. Van Vuuren, Stefanie, MD. What is depression? (Reviewed May 2011). [Online]
Available at: Accessed: 26 July 2015
2. Merck Manual: Consumer Version. Depression: Quick Facts. [Online] Accessed: 26 July 2015

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