Factsheets What is Depression?

Depression is a common mental health problem affecting about 121 million people worldwide. About one in five people experience depression at some time—that means we all know someone who’s been depressed.

We all feel down sometimes, especially when things go wrong. Depression is more than that. A key feature is intense sadness for 2 weeks or more - this can happen without any good reason.

Depression can happen in people of any age. It’s more common in women, but men get it too.

Signs and symptoms

People with depression often cry a lot, and feel miserable. But they don’t always say they are sad. Sometimes, they are irritable. They may not mix with other people as much as usual – or they may just be very quiet. They may stop doing their usual activities, or sleep during the day. Some people drink more alcohol or take drugs, to try to feel better. They may not know they are depressed.

  • People with depression don’t get as much fun out of things they usually like 
  • Some people don’t feel hungry, and lose weight. Others eat more to feel better, and may gain weight 
  • They often find it hard to get to sleep, or wake up early. 
  • Depression saps energy, and even simple things may feel really hard to do. 
  • Some people find it hard to get their body moving, and move more slowly. Others are fidgety and restless. 
  • It may be hard to concentrate or make decisions. 
  • Depressed people often feel very guilty, even when there’s no good reason for it. They may think they are worthless, or that there’s no point to anything.

These problems can interfere with getting help.

"I'm not worth the effort, and nothing will help anyway.”

"There’s nothing I can do to change things."

"It’s all just too much effort."

This is the depression talking. There are lots of simple things that can be done to help ease the depression. 

See the fact sheet “What to do about depression” for ideas.

Some people with severe depression may feel that life isn’t worth living. Some make plans about dying, or try to hurt themselves.

Always take thoughts of suicide seriously. Talk to a health professional about it. If you or a friend needs urgent 

help after hours, get to an emergency department at a hospital. Call 000 if medical help is needed. The OnTrack “Get Help” also has other numbers you can call.