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Mental Health Problems and Mind-Body Wellness

Depression

Home Treatment - When to Call a Health Professional

Most people experience some form of depression at some point in their lives. Depression can range from a minor problem to a major life-threatening illness. Fortunately, effective treatments are available for most people who suffer from depression.

Depression is probably caused by a combination of factors, including the genetic traits that a person inherits from his or her parents. Most major depressions involve problems with the chemical messengers (neuro-transmitters) in the brain. The amount of stress in a person's life and the way a person copes with stress also contribute to depression. Ongoing depression affects a person's body, mind, and social behaviour.

Many things can trigger depression, including:

Reduced daylight during the winter seems to cause a form of depression called seasonal affective disorder in some people. See Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Everyone gets sad. Gauging how deep and pervasive your sad feelings are can help you decide what to do. See Sadness or Depression? to help determine if you are depressed.

Because many things can contribute to depression, combining self-care and professional treatment is often most effective. The most common form of treatment combines counselling (psychotherapy) with medication. Inpatient treatment is sometimes needed in severe cases.

Home Treatment

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For many people, self-care alone can improve symptoms of mild depression. For more serious depression, self-care can add to the benefits of professional treatment.

  • Consider what might be causing or adding to your depression:

    • Are medications causing it? Review your prescription and nonprescription medications with a pharmacist or doctor.

    • If it's wintertime or you haven't been out in the sun for a while, read the information about seasonal affective disorder on See Seasonal Affective Disorder.

  • Pace yourself according to your energy level. Choose what is most important to get done and do those things first.

    Seasonal Affective Disorder

    Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), sometimes called the winter blues, is a mental health problem that usually occurs in the months when there is less sunlight. There is no known cure, but it can be controlled, and it improves in the spring when there are more hours of daylight. The main symptoms include depressed mood, decreased energy, and food cravings. If you notice such a pattern developing during the winter, consider trying the following:

    • Go out into the sun as often as possible. Protect your skin--it's your eyes' exposure to the sun that will help.

    • Take a vacation to a sunny place.

    • Get regular exercise, either outdoors or indoors near a window that lets in sunlight.

    Light therapy (phototherapy) is sometimes successful in treating SAD. It involves sitting, working, or reading in front of high- intensity lights for up to several hours a day.

    Medication can also be helpful, either alone or in combination with light therapy.

  • Do not make major life decisions when you are depressed. If you must make a major decision, ask someone you trust to help you.

  • Do not drink alcohol or use medications that have not been prescribed by your health professional.

  • Spend time with other people. Do things you usually enjoy, even if you don't feel like doing them.

  • Get enough sleep. If you are having difficulty sleeping, see Sleep Problems on See Sleep Problems.

  • Eat a healthy diet (see Nutrition). If you don't feel like eating, eat small snacks rather than large meals.

  • Exercise regularly. Getting 20 to 30 minutes of exercise each day is good for your body and your mind. Go for a walk. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Dance.

  • Believe that this mood will pass. Then look for signs that it is ending.

  • Give yourself time to heal. Do not expect too much from yourself too soon.

When to Call a Health Professional

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  • If you are feeling suicidal or are planning to hurt someone else.

  • If you hear voices that tell you to hurt or kill yourself or someone else.

  • If you have a sudden change in your behaviour or start to do things that you wouldn't usually do (such as having casual sex or drinking more alcohol than you normally would).

  • If symptoms of depression (See Sadness or Depression?) last longer than 2 weeks despite Home Treatment.

  • If grieving continues without improvement for more than 4 weeks. See Grief.

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