Pāpōuri Depression

Depression is the most common mental health problem in Aotearoa New Zealand. Unlike day to day sadness, depression takes over and does not go away without help. Depression can affect anyone, and with support will get better.

Video: I had a black dog, his name was depression

This video is produced by the World Health Organization. In collaboration with the World Health Organization to mark World Mental Health Day, writer and illustrator Matthew Johnstone tells the story of overcoming the "black dog of depression".

I had a black dog, his name was depression — YouTube (external link)

Causes of depression

We do not fully understand what causes depression. It can be triggered by a life experience, but can also start for no apparent reason.

Some people are more prone to depression than others. Often, this depends on factors beyond your control, such as having a family history of depression or some trauma in your life. Long-term physical illness or working in stressful occupations like farming can also have a effect.

Symptoms of depression

Depression is different for everyone and can range from mild to severe. It can cause symptoms affecting your emotional, physical, spiritual, and social wellbeing.

You might find it hard to do everyday things like going to work or seeing friends. You might stop wanting to do things you usually enjoy. 

Symptoms of depression — Depression.org.nz (external link)

A small number of depressed people consider or attempt suicide.

In a crisis

Diagnosing depression

If you are wondering if you have depression, you can do a self test. Anxiety can often go along with depression, and you may want to check for this also. 

Self-tests — Depression.org.nz (external link)

You can see a healthcare professional who can listen to your symptoms and make sure there is not another condition causing your low mood.

Self care for depression

You can improve depression by looking after yourself by:

  • being active
  • sleeping well
  • eating well
  • staying connected
  • managing stress.

Taking care — Depression.org.nz (external link)

Treating depression

Depression should be dealt with as soon as possible. If it is left alone, it could get worse and even lead to self-harm or suicide.

You might have to try a range of things before you start feeling better. Some things you will be able to do for yourself. But you might need some extra help from your healthcare provider, therapists, or other health professionals.

Your healthcare provider is a good place to start if you think you or someone you love might have depression.

Where to get help for mental health

  • Consider doing an online course about depression. These courses can help you understand your illness and motivate you with goals. They are useful for everyone, especially if you live in a rural area or if transport is a problem.

    Just a Thought

    Free online courses for people with anxiety and depression. The courses take 6 to 8 weeks to complete and include a generalised anxiety and a depression course.

    Just a Thought

    Beating the Blues

    This online programme is based on cognitive behavioural therapy, one of the most common treatments for anxiety. The programme is free, but you will need to be referred by your healthcare provider to take part in this programme.

    Beating the Blues

    Small Steps

    A set of tools to help with feelings of anxiety, stress, or low mood.

    Small Steps

  • Talking therapies help with depression in all age groups. They help you find new ways to think about events in your life and are very effective at treating depression.

    A psychologist or counsellor can provide talking therapy and emotional support.

    You can find information about accessing mental health support on the Mental Health Foundation website.

    Accessing mental health services — Mental Health Foundation

  • Your healthcare provider or psychiatrist may feel that medication could be effective. 

    There are several types of antidepressants. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are most commonly used. Most people start noticing an improvement 2 to 3 weeks after starting medication.

    After 4 to 6 weeks, your healthcare provider will check if your medication is working and if you are having any unwanted effects. The dose or type of antidepressant can be changed if needed.

    It is normal to take antidepressants for a year or longer if you have had depression before.

    Antidepressants — HealthInfo

Depression in children and teenagers

While depression can happen in tamariki (children), it is more common in rangatahi (teenagers).

Tamariki and rangatahi who are at higher risk for depression are those who:

  • are very stressed
  • have learning or behaviour difficulties
  • have experienced a loss.

The KidsHealth website has more information about depression in children, teens, and young adults.

Depression — KidsHealth (external link)

Supporting someone else with depression

Your support can make a big difference to someone close to you. Often, someone will start treatment because their whānau or friends have encouraged them.

It is normal for people with depression to withdraw from others. They may reject your efforts to care for them or let you down in other ways. It can be hard to know what to do or say but there are some resources to help you.

Supporting someone — Depression.org.nz (external link)

Looking after yourself

Looking after someone who is suffering from depression can be very stressful and difficult. It is also important to look after yourself and your own physical and mental health.

If you are involved in caring for someone who has depression, you might find some support at Yellow Brick Road. They offer free support for families and support people of people with mental illness.

Yellow Brick Road

Video: Living with a black dog

"Living with a black dog" is a video by the World Health Organization and Matthew Johnstone, author of "I had a black dog, his name is depression."

It is a guide for partners, carers and sufferers of depression. It advises those living with and caring for people with depression on what to do, what not to do, and where to go for help.

Living with a black dog — YouTube (external link)

Depression New Zealand

The importance of connecting with our roots, discovering our unique strengths or simply embracing our true self.

The Lowdown

Information on depression and anxiety for younger people.

Clinical review

This content was written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. It has been adapted for Health Information and Services.

Clinical advisers — HealthInfo (external link)

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