When someone has a physical injury, people easily recognize their pain and suffering and understand that recovery can be a slow process with possible hurdles throughout the journey. When it comes to mental health, however, the same level of understanding is often not just absent, it is commonly replaced by stigma and shame. Worldwide, millions of people live with depression,1 which is a medical illness, just like cancer or a skin disease, that requires compassionate, professional medical care. You cannot will yourself to just get over it.2
Being in a bad mood or feeling sad because something terrible happened is part of a normal, emotionally balanced human life.
There are different types of depression and Major Depressive Disorder or MDD is one of them.
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is a long-lasting, biologically based mood disorder.1 It is a serious health condition characterized by depressive episodes such as depressed mood or feelings of hopelessness and/or loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities.34 As a result, MDD doesn't just impact the person affected but can have a ripple effect across every aspect of their life, from relationships with family and friends to performance at work.34
The symptoms of MDD are defined as lasting at least two weeks, but they usually last much longer - months or even years - and so people living with MDD may delay seeking help.15 This can have long-term effects, as MDD can increase the risk of other health problems, such as cardiovascular disease.15
“Accepting that I have depression has helped me see that this sadness isn’t who I am as a person. It may always be with me but I know that if I let people help, I can have more good days.”
– Clara, 23
Being depressed goes well beyond feeling down. When you’re depressed, you’ll experience physical, emotional and cognitive symptoms for a prolonged period of time.1 These include having a depressed mood, loss of interest and enjoyment, reduced energy and lack of motivation.1 When you’re depressed, you may also experience anxiety, lack of appetite, insomnia, poor concentration, feelings of guilt or low self-worth,1 and a compulsion to contemplate death and suicide.6
Several factors may contribute to or increase your risk of developing MDD. These include:
The biological causes of depression are not yet fully understood. However, it is thought that decreased neuroplasticity - the ability of the nervous system to develop new connections - and the dysfunction of networks of neurons associated with mood regulation may play a role.9
Depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide.10 Globally, more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression,10 approximately 44.3 million of whom live in Europe.10 So, know that you are not alone – and that probably more people in your circle of family and friends suffer from this devastating disease than you may realize.
Depression has a massive impact on the lives of those struggling with it, those around them, and society as a whole. It is the main contributor to mental health problems in Europe. Up to 50% of chronic sick leaves in the EU are due to depression/anxiety. The cost of mood disorders and anxiety in the EU is about €170 billion per year.11
Depression is often a lifelong struggle and 60-70% of people who suffer from MDD will relapse. While a large number of people with depression never seek help, there are several types of treatment options available:1
Prevention programmes are also incredibly important. School programmes to enhance patterns of positive thinking, interventions for caregivers, exercise programmes for the elderly, etc. These all have been shown to reduce depression.10
The list below includes example questions to help start a conversation with your health care provider. There may be other relevant questions based on your symptoms, stage, and medical history that are not listed here.
If you have been affected by any of the issues, please contact Aware on freephone 1800 80 48 48 or Samaritans on 116 123 or email email@example.com
In an emergency, get help immediately by calling the emergency services on 112 or 999 or your mental health unit or hospital.
It can be painful to see someone you love struggle with depression, and you can’t fix someone’s depression for them. You can’t just take them out for dinner and expect them to cheer up. That doesn’t mean that companionship isn’t crucial.
Learn all you can about depression and how to talk about it and offer love and support. Understand that it is a serious medical condition that can have a severe impact on their physical health. Remember not to take it personally when they are not connecting with you. Often, people with depression have no energy or interest in doing any activities, even thinking of doing something may feel draining, and they may even lash out at you.
Have patience as you support your loved one in their recovery, and do not judge them when they relapse. Talk to them about depression to help them cope, and don’t shy away from even the darkest conversations. Talking openly and honestly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can help save a life.13
Meanwhile, look after your own emotional health too. You’ll need it to provide the full support your loved one needs.14
Read more about how to talk to friends and family about depression with the Little Book of Big Conversations.