This page contains information about depression, including how it is diagnosed and treated, and depression support. You may find this helpful if you are supporting a whānau member who is depressed.



  • Depression is a persistent feeling of hopelessness and can result in a loss of interest in life. 


  • It can make you feel numb, overwhelmed, constantly tired and unable to concentrate.


  • It doesn’t need a specific trigger to occur. 


  • You can treat depression with therapies and medication. 



What is depression?

Depression can show up as a constant low mood, accompanied by a loss of interest in once enjoyable activities. Sometimes there’s no reason for the feelings that arise and people don’t know why they are down, sad or depressed. They just are. 

It’s important to remember depression isn’t the fault of the person who is depressed.

Depression is often linked with anxiety. It is worth reading our anxiety guidance to see if it helps you.




What causes depression? 

Depression has various causes and there are factors that can contribute to the development of depression. These include:


  • Genetic factors


  • Having parents or other whānau members with depression


  • Stressful events, such as relationship and financial problems


  • Changing hormone and chemical levels in your body


  • Lifestyle factors, such as not exercising or being socially isolated


  • Drug and alcohol abuse


  • Having other illnesses that can cause low mood.


  • Brain injuries and dementia


How is depression different from sadness?


Depression is more than just sadness and the difference isn’t about how much someone feels down. It is a combination of how long the negative feelings last, the impact on their body, and the effect upon how daily life.


  1. Depression doesn’t need a trigger to occur

Sadness is a normal emotion that everyone experiences. It is usually caused by a specific situation, such as a relationship ending, a  bereavement, isolation or a job loss.

When it comes to depression though, no such trigger is needed. A person suffering from depression feels sad or hopeless about everything. 

They may have every reason in the world to be happy but they lose the ability to experience joy or pleasure.


  1. It takes away all interest and pleasure

With sadness, you might feel down for a day or two, but you’re still able to enjoy simple things like your favourite TV show, food, or spending time with friends. 

This isn’t the case when someone is dealing with depression. Even activities that a depressed person once enjoyed are no longer interesting or pleasurable. 


  1. It disrupts eating and sleeping patterns

When you experience sadness you’re still able to sleep as you usually would, remain motivated to do things, and maintain your desire to eat.

Depression is associated with serious disruption of normal eating and sleeping patterns, as well as not wanting to get out of bed all day.

Types and Symptoms


What are the symptoms of depression? 


Someone who is depressed can find thinking about things very hard and that their mind seems unable to rest and recover.


You may feel:


  • Extremely unmotivated and/or lacking in energy to complete tasks


  • Numb or emotionless


  • Restless or unable to sit still


  • Unable to concentrate on any one thing


  • Moody, easily annoyed


  • Hopeless or constantly overwhelmed


  • Like you just want to be left alone


  • Nervous, anxious or on edge


  • Afraid something awful might happen


You might be thinking:


  • Negatively about everything


  • You’re a failure


  • You can’t cope or get through tasks like you could before.


  • You don’t care about the people and things that usually matter to you



What are the different types of depression?


The main types of depression include:


  • Major depression (clinical depression)


  • Dysthymia (persistent depressive disorder)


  • Postpartum depression (peripartum depression)


  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)


  • Manic depression


    Major Depressive Disorder (Clinical depression)

    Major depressive disorder (MDD) affects mood and behaviour, as well as physical functions such as appetite and sleeping patterns. It can interfere with your ability to work, study and enjoy life. 

    People with MMD often lose interest in activities they once enjoyed.

    Signs and symptoms can include:


    • Feeling sad most of the day, almost every day


    • Changes in appetite or sudden weight loss/gain


    • Having trouble falling asleep or wanting to sleep more than usual


    • Feeling unusually tired 


    • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions

    Dysthymia (Persistent depressive disorder)

    Dysthymia is a long-term depression that lasts for years and can interfere with daily life, work, and relationships. 

    People experiencing dysthymia may be perceived as pessimistic, or a complainer, but really they are dealing with a chronic mental illness. 

    Signs and symptoms include:


    • Difficulty being happy, even on typically joyous occasions


    • Symptoms that come and go over time, with changing intensity


    • Symptoms that generally don’t disappear for more than two months at a time

    Postpartum Depression (Peripartum depression)

    Sad feelings and crying bouts after childbirth are known as the “baby blues”. The baby blues are common, attributed to hormonal changes, and tend to decrease within a week or two. 

    Around 1 in 7 women will struggle with sadness, anxiety or worry that lasts more than several weeks. They may have postpartum depression (PPD). 

    Signs and symptoms include:


    • Feeling down or depressed for most of the day, for several weeks or more


    • Feeling distant and withdrawn from family and friends


    • A loss of interest in activities (including sex)


    • Changes in eating and sleeping habits


    • Feeling tired most of the day


    • Feeling angry or irritable


    • Having feelings of anxiety, worry, panic attacks or racing thoughts

    Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

    Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is related to the changing of seasons. People who suffer from SAD notice symptoms start and end around the same times each year.

    For many, symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months. However, SAD can occur in the spring or summer. 

    Signs and symptoms include:


    • Hopelessness


    • Fatigue


    • Loss of interest or pleasure in  activities


    • Symptoms that start mild  and progress in severity over time


    People who experience SAD in the winter have also noted the  following unique symptoms:


    • Heaviness in arms and legs


    • Frequent oversleeping


    • Cravings for carbohydrates/ weight gain


    • Relationship problems

    Manic Depression

    This is the old name for bipolar disorder. It is a different mental health condition to depression and includes episodes of extreme low and high moods.

    Treatment and Self-Care


    How is depression treated?


    Depression can be treated with a combination of different therapies and medication. There are many different therapies in New Zealand. These include: 


    • Counselling


    • Bibliotherapy


    • Cognitive behavioural therapy


    • Family therapy


    • Motivational interviewing


    • Psychotherapy


    • Dialectical behaviour therapy


    • Interpersonal psychotherapy 


    • Problem-solving therapy 


    • Multisystemic therapy



    Depression medications (antidepressants)


    Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)


    Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed type of antidepressants. They affect serotonin in the brain and have fewer side effects for most people. 


    SSRIs can include:


    • Citalopram (Celexa)


    • Escitalopram (Lexapro)


    • Fluoxetine (Prozac)


    • Paroxetine (Paxil)


    • Sertraline (Zoloft)




    Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)


    Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are the second most commonly prescribed type of antidepressants. 


    SNRIs can include: 


    • Duloxetine (Cymbalta)


    • Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq)


    • Levomilnacipran  (Fetzima)


    • Venlafaxine (Effexor)




    Norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs)


    Bupropion (Wellbutrin) is the most commonly prescribed form of NDRI. It has fewer side effects than other antidepressants and it is sometimes used to treat anxiety.




    Tricyclic antidepressants


    Tricyclics are known for causing more side effects than other types of antidepressants, so they are unlikely to be prescribed unless other medications are ineffective. 


    Tricyclic antidepressants can include:


    • Amitriptyline (Elavil)


    • Desipramine (Norpramin)


    • Doxepin (Sinequan)


    • Imipramine (Tofranil)


    • Nortriptyline (Pamelor)


    • Protriptyline (Vivactil)


    Whānau Depression Support

    How can I support someone who is depressed?

    Being depressed can be a very isolating and lonely experience. Knowing that people are thinking of you can lift your spirits.

    It might not seem like a lot, but being patient, doing things together and staying connected can be a big help. 


    Simple ways to offer depression support include:


    • Having a coffee or walking together


    • Watching funny video clips 


    • Listening to music


    • Window shopping 


    • Phoning or texting to say hi


    • Letting your loved one know you’re a safe person to talk to


    Often when people are feeling depressed they don’t want to go out and do anything, as it all just feels too hard. Remember, offering depression support isn’t about making the depressed person do things. 


    Have patience & take it one day at a time

    It can be hard supporting people who are depressed, especially when you have so many ideas that could help. It is important to remember that even people without depression do not always want to do activities with friends.

    Something that may have worked before might not necessarily work again. Have patience and take it one day at a time.


    Remember, recovering from depression is a process and it can take a long time to heal. 


    Our self-care and mindfulness guides contain ways to help improve your wellbeing whilst supporting a loved one experiencing depression.

    Yellow Brick Road can help you


    Every day we set out to ensure whānau feel listened to, supported, equipped and ultimately confident to overcome the challenges they face.

    If you are concerned about a whānau member, our whānau support workers can help you by providing depression support, information, education and  advocacy services, such as:


    • Listening to your concerns and questions


    • Helping you create an action plan that supports you and your loved one throughout their recovery journey


    • Providing books, articles and information about locally available services


    • Depression support groups 


    Our services are free and confidential. Contact us today to find out more.


    Useful depression websites


    This website provides resources to help you understand depression, including:





    SPARK is a free online interactive game that provides depression support by helping rangatahi learn how to cope with depression.


    The Lowdown

    The Lowdown website has a quick self-help test to see how depression may be affecting your life and simple first steps you can take to heal:




    Mental Health Foundation

    The Mental Health Foundation website has free depression resources, including:




    Who can I contact for counselling image

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