David Poon, BSc. Immunology and Infection, PharmD Candidate
Stigma around Depression
At one time or another, we’ve all hit low points in our lives. It could be the job you wanted but didn’t get, the rough breakup, or the death of a loved one. Sometimes, it’s nothing in particular at all, but yet you feel an constant weight on your shoulders that follows you everywhere you go. There’s this misconception popularized by the media today that portrays depression as being sad all the time and staying in bed all day long – this is only half of the truth. Depression, along with other mental illnesses, is stigmatized in certain cultures due to the notion that those who suffer with mental health are weak or just going through a phase. This is why it’s important to break the stigma surrounding mental health.
Depression is More Common Than You Think
Also known as major depressive disorder (MDD), depression is something that is more common than what many would think. 5 in every 100 people experience depression in Canada.1,2 While symptoms of MDD can be debilitating and negatively affect one’s quality of life, only about 50% of people with depression get treated for it.3,4 Let’s change that. Just like with any other medical condition, MDD requires proper screening by a healthcare professional; however, there are some basics of MDD that we can learn now in order to help increase awareness.
Symptoms of MDD
Screening for MDD begins with an assessment of emotional and physical symptoms. SADIFACES is an acronym used to remember the listed items below. In order to be diagnosed with MDD, one must have >5 symptoms listed below, including depressed mood and/or decreased interest/pleasure, for at least 2 weeks:2
- Sleep: change in sleeping pattern
- Appetite: increase or decrease in appetite, leading to noticeable weight changes
- Depressed mood
- Interest or pleasure decreased: lack of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyable
- Concentration: reduced concentration affecting the ability to do basic tasks, or reduced productivity at school or work
- Esteem: low self-esteem and feelings of inappropriate guilt
- Suicidal thoughts
While some present with more emotional symptoms of MDD, over ⅔ of individuals present with physical symptoms of MDD such as back pain, weight gain/loss, tiredness, headache, change in sleeping pattern, and other body aches. Ongoing changes in sleep patterns are common for individuals initially presenting with MDD. However, it’s important to note that not everyone experiences only emotional or physical symptoms. Some may experience a mix of both, making matters more confusing.
Among these symptoms, suicidal thoughts and/or attempted suicide are signs that one should seek immediate medical attention from a physician or access emergency health resources, ranging from the ER to suicide help-lines.
Emergency Health Resources
Sometimes, it’s hard to put on a brave face every day. Sometimes, depression may get the best of us, and we may need a helping hand. In cases where you or someone you know is thinking about committing suicide, please call 911. This is an emergency. Don’t be afraid to call. You might just end up saving someone’s life.
There are Distress Lines available for immediate help:
- If you are in Edmonton, call 780-482-HELP (4357)
- If you are in rural Alberta, call 1-800-232-7288
If you just need to talk to someone, you can access the Alberta Mental Health Help Line which is open 24/7 at 1-877-303-2642.
The Kids Help Phone is also available at 1-800-668-6868.
Alternatively, you can call 211 and operators will put you in contact with the most appropriate resource.
The Bottom Line
Mental health, including depression, is a serious healthcare matter and may require treatment or counselling. You wouldn’t tell someone who was sick to “just get over it.” The same goes for depression. Mental health isn’t about putting on a smile and toughing it out – it just doesn’t work that way. We’ve made huge strides in ending the stigma surrounding depression over the years, but there’s still lots that can be done. Be an advocate for mental health and help dispel the myths. Make a difference in the lives of others and together, let’s make sure everyone that needs help gets the best support they can.
We hope you took away something valuable from this piece. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this article or others, feel free to reach out to us on Instagram, Facebook, or at firstname.lastname@example.org with your feedback. We’d love to hear from you.
- Public Health Agency of Canada. (2016, December 30). What is Depression? Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/chronic-diseases/mental-illness/what-depression.html
- Kennedy, S. H., Parikh, S. V., & Grigoriadis, S. (2017). Depression. RxTx
- Lecrubier, Y. (2007). Widespread underrecognition and undertreatment of anxiety and mood disorders: Results from 3 European studies. J Clin Psychiatry, 2, 36-41.
- Patten, S. B., Wang, J. L., Williams, J. V., Currie, S., Beck, C. A., Maxwell, C. J., & El-Guebaly, N. (2006). Descriptive epidemiology of major depression in Canada. Can J Psychiatry, 2, 84-90.
- Baer, L., & Mark, B. A. (2010). Handbook of Clinical Rating Scales and Assessment in Psychiatry and Mental Health (1st ed.). Humana Press. doi:10.1007/978-1-59745-387-5