Depression has become one of the most commonly used words in the past few years. It is a word that gets used whenever something is inconvenient or sad, rather than being used solely in a mental health capacity. We have changed the perception of the word, taking away some of the stigma and fear that surrounded the word. Today, people are more aware than ever about what depression is, what it can look like and that it is not something to be ashamed of. This does not mean that all the stigma and fear of depression is gone, or that there is not a profound sense of guilt and shame that follows for many people, but it has become a lot more common as people speak up.
So what is Depression and what does it mean for the person who have been diagnosed as depressed?
Depression is a mood disorder commonly present in adults. It is two times as likely for women to have it as compared to men and it is one of the most commonly diagnosed disorders.
Its defining characteristic is a persistent feeling of sadness every or most days and a lack of interest in activity that was previously enjoyable. Compared to feelings of sadness, where people can still find brief moments of happiness or pleasure, people with depression may find it difficult to find any happiness or enjoyment out of their lives. They might sleep too little or all day and are still perpetually exhausted, have abnormal eating and self-care habits and may not be able to concentrate or focus on making even basic decisions. Their weight may change, and they might have no motivation to do anything, or work to distract themselves from their inner pain.
While the shame, anger, and guilt behind having depression is not as prevalent in North American society, the stigma behind having a mental health disorder is still very present. Even if individuals support mental health, gaining one’s own diagnosis can be a very scary so some individuals with depression will hide their feelings, putting on a show of being happy, joking around with others and smiling, but may be crippled by an empty hollow feeling on the inside.
To help treat depression, there are a number of options- the most effective treatment has been found to be a mixture of psychotherapy along with antidepressants. Psychotherapy, or talk therapy is what any person might think of when they hear therapy, sitting and talking with a trained therapist to help get over negative thoughts and behavioural patterns.
There are a few different types of psychotherapy the therapist might use as treatment, but the most popular and effective would be Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). In CBT, one works closely with a counsellor to help change and identify the thoughts and behaviours that lead to the depressive behaviours. The counsellor would work closely to help to tailor strategies and techniques to each individual. For example, if someone has been experiencing more worry and focusing on the negative, then the therapist might ask her to incorporate meditation to help calm her mind.
In addition to psychotherapy, many people will be prescribed an antidepressant called SSRI- Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors which work to reduce the symptoms that people deal with. In people with depression, there is usually a low level of serotonin in their brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, or a chemical messenger, that helps control your mood, when you sleep and wake up and much more. SSRI’s work to increase levels of serotonin in the brain so your mood and sleep patterns get better. These SSRI’s are best used for people dealing with moderate, severe or critical depression, not mild depression and do help about 70% of the people who take them.
Many of these antidepressants can be difficult due to the side effects that can come along with them. Some people experience side effects, others don’t, but as treatment continues side effects have been found to decrease. The goal is to find the type of medication and dose that works best to decrease depression symptoms and minimize side effects. If SSRI’s are not right for certain individuals, there are also other types of antidepressants available - Tricyclic antidepressants (TCA) and Selective Serotonin Noradrenaline Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSNRI) are other popular alternatives.
If you or anyone you know needs immediate and emergent help, please contact:
Toronto Distress Centres: 416 408-4357 or 408-HELP
Gerstein Centre: 416 929-5200
Spectra Helpline: 416 920-0497 or 905 459-7777 for Brampton and Mississauga residents
TTY: 905 278-4890; Languages: English, Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu, Spanish, Portuguese
Assaulted Women's Helpline: 416 863-0511; Toll-free: 1 866 863-0511
Kids Help Phone: 1 800 668-6868; Languages: English and French
Community Crisis Line Scarborough and Rouge Hospital: 416 495-2891 for 24/7 telephone crisis support.
Service borders: south to the lake, north to Steeles Avenue, east to Port Union Road, and west to Victoria Park
Durham Crisis and Mental Health Line: 905 666-0483
Distress Centre Halton: For Residents of the Halton Region (Burlington, Halton Hills, Milton, and Oakville). Oakville: 905-849-4541; Burlington: 905-681-1488; Milton/Halton Hills: 905-877-1211*
*These numbers have been taken directly from the CAMH website
If you are looking for a therapist in Ontario:
Ontario Psychological Association
Ontario Health Care Options
For more information you can try the Canadian Mental Health Association or the Centre for Mental Health Services