What are some of the signs of depression?

According to the Ministry of Health, the two key signs of depression are: 

  • frequently feeling sad or hopeless 
  • no longer getting pleasure from activities you normally enjoy

Other signs of depression include:

  • feeling tired all the time 
  • feelings of emptiness or loneliness
  • decreased libido
  • unable to concentrate 
  • sleeping all the time, or unable to sleep 
  • thinking about death a lot 
  • frequent feelings of anxiety

If you are feeling like this (especially the two key signs), it’s probably time to act (see the information before and after this question).

More information about the signs of depression, what causes it and how you can help someone who is depressed, is on the Ministry of Health’s Depression website.

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Where can I get help for depression?

It’s a good idea to start by talking to your GP about how you are feeling. You could also try one of the following free telephone helplines, for advice or just someone to talk to:

  • the Depression Helpline on 0800 111 757 for telephone counselling
  • Lifeline on 0800 543 354 for telephone counselling (or the Chinese Lifeline 0800 888 880 which provides the Lifeline service in Cantonese and Mandarin) 
  • Samaritans on 0800 726 666 for support and listening

The following are specialised in helping younger people:  

  • Kidsline on 0800 54 37 54 (a Lifeline service) for support and listening
  • Youthline on 0800 376 633 for support and information
  • Barnardos’ What’s Up for children and teens, for support and listening

You could also speak to a counsellor or join a support group.

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What can I do to help my friend who has been really “down” for a long time?

You can find out as much as you can about depression, to help you understand what your friend is going through. There’s a lot of information on the Ministry of Health’s Depression website, including advice on how you can help your friend, for example:

  • Spend time with them and listen to them without being judgemental
  • Encourage them to be physically active and healthy (e.g. getting enough sleep, cutting down on alcohol and drugs)
  • Encourage them to spend time with friends and do things they enjoy 
  • Support them in getting professional help from a health provider
  • Look after yourself, as the worry can be quite stressful for you

You can also call one of the helplines mentioned above.

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I don’t like the side effects of the anti-depressants I’m on, what should I do?

Anti-depressant medication works by correcting chemical imbalances in your brain. If your doctor or psychiatrist prescribes an anti-depressant for you, they should tell you about possible side effects (such as nausea or tiredness), and also how long it might take for the medication to start working.

If you are unhappy with the side effects of your medication, talk to your health professional to discuss your options e.g. changing to a different medication.

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How can I help someone who is suffering from postnatal depression?

New mothers commonly experience low moods soon after giving birth – this is commonly known as ‘baby blues’ and is related to a combination of hormonal changes and the stresses of having to cope with caring for a newborn. These feelings should pass after a few days.

If the new mother is showing signs of being very depressed and these feelings have not subsided after a few days, then she could be suffering from postnatal depression. This is more serious than baby blues and can occur any time during the first year of the baby’s life. The symptoms are similar to those of depression, with additional symptoms that include showing emotional detachment from the baby.

The main difference between postnatal depression and depression is that the former involves a new born baby who is utterly dependent on the mother. This makes it more important to seek help early.

If your partner could be suffering from postnatal depression your first step might be to talk to your partner's doctor, midwife or Well Child provider. You can also contact Healthline (0800 611 116), Plunketline (0800 933 922) or the Depression Helpline (0800 111 757) for advice.

More information on postnatal depression is on the Ministry of Health factsheet Depression during and after pregnancy and the Mental Health Foundation website.

In the meantime you can help your friend by arranging for her to have time off from looking after her baby, encouraging her to spend time with friends, and making sure she gets plenty of opportunities to sleep and eat healthily.  

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Where do I find a good counsellor?

You can get help via telephone counselling services for free. They can also help you find local counsellors in your area who provide face-to-face counselling. Other options for face-to-face counselling include:

The Mental Health Foundation has tips for choosing a counsellor as well as a full list of helplines, professional associations of counsellors, and other organisations which can help. They also have a downloadable Guide to Talking Therapies, which includes information about what to expect from your counsellor, how counselling works and the different types of therapies available.