Serena Malcolm

I’m a 30 year old wife and mother. My two great loves are my family and writing, and blogging allows me to combine the two.

There is an elephant in the room and its name is Depression.

Nobody wants to talk about it.

Nobody even wants to look at it.

It is ignored, and because of this, it is running rampant.

Globally, more than 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression. It is the leading cause of disability worldwide. So why are we still pretending that it’s not important? Part of the problem is the myths surrounding depression that cause society to belittle it, to stigmatize it.

So let’s dispel the top three right now and move on…

Myth no. 1: Depression just means you’re feeling sad.

Everyone can feel sad from time to time and, usually, they feel better in a matter of days. Depression, however, is a sadness that you can’t shake.  It doesn’t go away in a matter of days. It is deep rooted and it is persistent.  Depression can also cause a range of other emotions including guilt, intense anger and frustration.

Myth no. 2: You can just snap out of it.

People suffer from depression for many different reasons including genetic conditions, medication issues, social problems, hormonal imbalances and many more.  There is always an underlying cause, and until that cause is identified and treated, the depression will continue.

Myth no. 3: It’s all in your head.

Depression is a real illness with real symptoms and it’s a major contributor to the global burden of disease. And while depression is indeed an illness of the mind, it can also cause physical symptoms.  These include, but are not limited to, weight changes, constipation and exhaustion.

Only a quarter of people with mental health issues seek help.  The remaining three quarters may be in denial, or may be screaming out for help in a way which their loved ones simply miss.

It is so important to be able to recognize and respond to the signs of depression.  We should look out for symptoms (things that you can feel) in ourselves, but also signs (things that you can see) in our loved ones.  Sometimes, if a person is in crisis (experiencing a depressive episode) they may not be able to help themselves and they may need someone they love to be there and to intervene.

Here are some of the signs of depression (for a full list of signs and symptoms, click here).

Look out for:

1) General loss of interest (in day-to-day activities, hobbies etc) – Does your daughter usually meet with her friends after school, but now she doesn’t feel like going, does she usually listen to music, but now there’s only silence?

2) Sleep changes – Was you partner a good sleeper but now they are tossing and turning and it’s keeping you awake? Are they looking more tired than usual?

3) Reckless Behavior – Is your partner now driving carelessly – too fast – not checking mirrors?  Are they drinking to excess – gambling?

4) Severe Self-criticism – Is you daughter suddenly being really hard on herself for making even the smallest of mistakes?  Does she no longer think she’s good at anything?

5) Weight Changes – Has your son lost or gained a significant amount of weight recently? Have his eating patterns changed?

6) Irritability and anger – Has your partner been snapping at you lately for no apparent reason – at the kids? Have they been more argumentative?

The key question to ask with the signs above is, are these things out of character? Are they new?  If so, and if your loved one is exhibiting more than one of the signs, try and talk to them.  Ask them how they’ve been feeling.  Try to match the signs to the symptoms and if alarm bells start ringing, offer your support.  Be honest, tell them that you think they may be depressed and ask them what they would like to do.

Do they want to talk to someone? You? A friend?

Do they want medical advice?

Do they just want some time?

Let them lead (unless you feel they’re so severe that they can’t make an appropriate choice), but let them know that you are there for them, whatever they decide.

There are so many treatments for depression – it’s not all counselling and antidepressants – and the treatments can be as individual as the person affected.  It’s about finding what works.  It’s about baby steps. And remember the biggest step towards getting better, is acknowledging the problem in the first place.

We need to close the gap between those who need help and those who get it.  If you knew your loved one was suffering – regardless of the cause – you’d want to help, wouldn’t you?

Depression is suffering… recognize and respond.


References and Further Reading:

1)      Clinical Depression –

2)      The Fundamental Facts –

3)      Depression Signs & Warning Signs –

4)      Global Burden of Disease –

5)      Depression –

6)      Mental Health Statistics –

7)      Depression Self-Assessment –

Upper photo: Photo:

What do you think?

4 Responses to “Depression: How to Recognize and Respond”

  1. An Elephant named Depression » Operation: Be His Mother Says:

    [...] meeting place for parents to share information and experiences. It took me a while to finish the article – even though I have written dozens before – because the subject was a little close to [...]

  2. Teri Says:

    Nice post. My son has recently started on anti-depressants. Our journey was a bit different – he was in active treatment for ADD, including medication and counseling. What we found, once the ADD was under control, was an underlying depression. It may be situational or may be a long term thing (my husband has major depression, I have anxiety). I guess we’ll see how it goes. Right now, it’s all about getting him to an appropriate therapeutic dose and keeping up the counseling.

  3. Serena Malcolm Says:

    I can’t speak for everyone but the combination of antidepressants and a good counselor worked wonders for me. It’s all about finding what works and then finding the right balance. I hope your son finds what works for him – it’s great to see such supportive parents. Good luck and thanks for sharing.

  4. Parents-Space Says:

    [...] received a comment on my last post Depression: How to Recognize and Respond from a fellow sufferer. She explained that one of the things she can’t bear is when a well-wisher [...]

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