If a person suspects that he / she or a loved one is suffering from depression, it is important to remember that the condition is treatable and seek the help of a professional as soon as possible.


What is depression?

Depression is a term used for a mood (feeling) that is so impaired that people living with it struggle to function normally. Depression occurs in various forms, but the most common and well-known form is known as major depression.

Major depressive disorder is a condition known to many people. This is a mood characterized by:

  1. a persistent dark feeling that coincides with;
  2. a low dunk of the self; and
  3. a loss of enjoyment and interest in everyday events.

Depression affects the person's family, work life, sleep and eating patterns and general health.


What are the symptoms of depression?

Depression is a diagnosable medical condition of the mind, with a list of symptoms to be cured. The following symptoms are indicative, based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM – 5), widely accepted as the most authoritative source worldwide.

Note that an official diagnosis may only be made by a qualified person.

To be diagnosable must at least five of the following symptoms, for a period of at least two weeks. One or both of the first two symptoms should occur:

  1. depression (a predominant feeling of sadness or the inability to experience emotion, as experienced or perceived by others - in children and teenagers it may appear as irritability); and / or
  2. a decrease in interest or enjoyment in most daily activities.


  1. change in appetite, weight gain or loss
  2. sleep problems, such as insomnia or too much sleep
  3. daily physical irritability or physical paralysis
  4. constant physical and / or emotional fatigue and loss of energy (eg feeling "porridge")
  5. feelings of guilt or worthlessness that are intense and frequent
  6. problems with concentration and making decisions
  7. regular thoughts of death and / or suicide (more than usual)


  1. The symptoms cause noticeable discomfort and have a negative impact on the person's functioning and quality of life.
  2. The symptoms do not occur due to another medical condition or the use of a drug / drug.
  3. The symptoms are not better explained by another psychological condition.
  4. There has never been a manic or hypomanic episode.
If a person suspects that he, his or a loved one is suffering from depression, it is important to remember that the condition is treatable and that they are a professional (medical doctor, clinical psychologist, spiritual leader or as soon as possible). social worker) should consult.
It is generally accepted that both physiological and psychological reasons play a role in the cause of depression.


Depression and suicide

"Suicide" is probably one of the hardest, coldest words there is. Nowadays, many people prefer to speak of "suicide" because "murder" sounds too insensitive.

Many questions and opinions exist about this behavior and it seems that people generally feel very strongly about this. The recent television series, Thirteen reasons why, sparked renewed interest in the topic. (This is a series on teen suicide, with an age limit of 16. Some episodes contain a lot of graphic content and we highly recommend parental supervision - and involvement.)

"Cowardly", "brave", "sinful" and "tragic" are terms that resonate frequently and from all quarters when talking about suicide. The facts about suicide in South Africa are disturbing. Eleven percent (11%) of all unnatural deaths in the country are due to suicide. It is extremely high (much higher than the average figure worldwide) and literally means that every hour or hour and a half one suicide occurs in South Africa. More men than women apply suicide in our country and for every four men who commit suicide, one woman takes her own life. It is interesting, however, that more women than men are trying to commit suicide, but that men are more successful in their efforts because they use more violent methods, for example to shoot themselves or hang themselves.

It is not easy to answer the question of why people commit suicide, but we know that depression It can be a major contributing factor if it is not noticed and dealt with on time. So many suicide cases in South Africa could have been prevented.

The following are some of the warning signs that one can pay attention to, either in yourself or in your loved ones:

  1. excessive sadness or mood swings;
  2. sudden, "peculiar" calm;
  3. withdrawal from work and family / friends;
  4. dangerous or self-injurious behavior;
  5. unusual threats of suicide; and / or
  6. sudden future preparation, as well as saying goodbye to friends and family.

People who are generally the greatest risk walk to apply suicide include those:

  1. who has lost a spouse through death or divorce (older people);
  2. who had previously attempted suicide;
  3. with a family history of suicide;
  4. whose friend or associate committed suicide;
  5. with a history of sexual, psychological or emotional abuse;
  6. who is unmarried, illiterate or unemployed;
  7. who are exposed to violence and trauma because of their work;
  8. with a dependency problem; and
  9. which is very impulsive.
The facts about suicide in South Africa are disturbing. Eleven percent (11%) of all unnatural deaths in the country are due to suicide. It is extremely high (much higher than the average number worldwide), and literally means that one hour of death or death occurs in South Africa every hour or hour and a half.
It is not at all true that people suffering from some form of depression are necessarily at risk for suicide. However, this is usually the case, as most people who commit suicide suffer from some form of depression.

Of course, this does not mean that someone will necessarily commit suicide if he or she falls into the above categories, but it can serve as cues to spot signs of suicidal thoughts and intentions in our loved ones and acquaintances.


Children with depression

“Depression among children” is an expression that people do not want to hear. Unfortunately, nowadays depression affects more children and adolescents than it used to.

Depression does not only occur in adults; anyone from the age of three can experience depression. Parents of children and teenagers, as well as children of the elderly, should therefore be aware of the symptoms. About 11% of teens suffer from depression-related disorder before the age of 18. Girls are more likely to develop depression than boys, and the risk of depression also increases as a teen gets older.


Postpartum depression

Postpartum depression, also called post-partum depression, is a form of clinical depression that mainly affects women, typically after childbirth.

Read more about postpartum depression or post-partum depression under women's mental health.

Did you know?
The best treatment for postpartum depression is to take precautions and to act early.
The good news is that these symptoms are treatable and can be resolved. However, it must be dealt with, because it does not necessarily go away by itself.


Treatment of depression

  1. Why is it necessary to treat depression?
    Depression can make you feel like you never get out of a dark cloud. It can, without treatment, snowball and get worse and worse. Even the more severe cases of depression are treatable. So if depression deprives you of the life you would like to lead, do not hesitate to seek help. It is important to know your condition and the treatment options available. From therapy and medication to healthy lifestyle changes, there are effective treatments that can help you overcome your depression and reclaim the meaningful life you want to lead.
  2. What can I do if I suspect I am experiencing symptoms of depression?
    Lifestyle changes can provide powerful relief, for example:

    1. stay in touch with loved ones
    2. Exercise regularly - it is a successful antidepressant
    3. eat healthy
    4. sleep enough (6-8 hours a night)
    5. reduce stress factors whenever possible

    If these types of changes do not bring enough relief, it is time to turn to professional help. A registered psychologist can assess you and refer you to a psychiatrist for medication, if needed.

    Paying attention to depression symptoms early and trying to do something about it reduces the chance that the symptoms will worsen.
  3. What does medication do?
    The psychological experience of depression is usually intertwined with specific physiological processes. The popular term “chemical imbalance” is often used to describe these physical processes, but in reality it is much more complicated. Incorrect mood regulation, genetic vulnerability and physiological factors in the environment are just the beginning of how complex the body is experiencing depression. Medication in this case is focused on trying to regulate the mood.
  4. How long should I use medication?
    It differs from person to person. There are short and long term options. For example, medication may be prescribed for two to three months, six to twelve months or life-long. The doctor prescribing the medication will be able to make a recommendation on the period of use.
  5. My medication doesn't work for me; what now?
    There is no "one size fits all"- treatment for depression. What works for one person may not work for anyone else. The best way to treat depression is to build up knowledge of the treatment options and then a treatment plan for your unique needs together. working with a professional It is extremely important to always consult a professional.
  6. How do I prepare for my first appointment with a doctor or psychologist?
    If your anxiety levels are too high, ask a family member or friend to go with you to the first appointment. You can take the following with you:
    1. a list of signs and symptoms that you are experiencing and how long you have been experiencing them;
    2. a list of things you have avoided or stopped doing because of your depression;
    3. medical information about any physical conditions you may have;
    4. a list of the medications (including natural supplements) and doses you are currently taking or have recently taken; and
    5. a list of questions you want to ask the psychologist.

Tips for treatment:

  1. The chemistry of us all differs, so the medication you are prescribed may not work for you.
  2. It is important not to give up, but if necessary, talk to your doctor about the effect (or lack of effect) of the medication.
  3. During the time you take the medication, write down everything that you feel, so that you can explain to your doctor how the medication makes you feel, think and act.
  4. Keep working with your doctor until you find the medication that works for you.
  5. Important! Do not deviate from your prescription without consulting your doctor.


What would a treatment plan for depression look like?

From an integrated approach, we usually propose a combination of the following strategies:

  1. Diagnosis
    An accurate diagnosis is very important. Therefore, first start by requesting a full medical examination from your GP to make sure there is no medical explanation (eg thyroid problems) for your symptoms. If not, the next step is to make an appointment with a psychologist, who can further assess and diagnose you.
  2. Therapies
    Help and support from a registered clinical, counseling and sometimes educational psychologist, registered counselor or even a spiritual leader or trusted, trained counselor in your community can be extremely valuable. It is usually worthwhile in the long run to learn within a therapeutic relationship to understand and manage your depression. There may be events that need to be processed and therapy provides a safe space for this.
  3. Medication
    Medication may be prescribed by a family doctor or psychiatrist. If someone cannot afford private medical services or medication, they can inquire at their nearest state clinic or hospital.
  4. Support groups
    A support group can be invaluable to someone suffering from a mood disorder. Within the group, people share their “stories” and challenges and learn from each other's skills and experiences. However, finding a support group in one's area is not always easy. Online searches sometimes produce good results. More information can be found on the SADAG website: SADAG
  5. Lifestyle
    Managing depression effectively requires a healthy, balanced lifestyle. This means spending time on self-care. Regular exercise or physical activities such as walking or jogging, time to relax and a balanced diet are usually suggested. Certain foods (eg caffeine, processed foods, refined sugars) and drugs (eg alcohol) can aggravate symptoms and should therefore be limited.


Also, try one of the following links for an online search for a psychologist in your area:

  1. Find help
  2. SA Medical Specialists
  3. Medpages
  4. contact Wie is ek?
  5. visit Wie is ek? - directory website follow the link


The “Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS)” was originally developed by Zigmond and Snaith (1983) and is commonly used by physicians to determine the levels of anxiety and depression that a person experiences. Please complete our online HADS (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale) questionnaire to find out if you or a loved one may be suffering from depression.




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Did you know?
  1. Depression is estimated to affect more than 300 million people worldwide.
  2. The condition occurs in about twice as many women as men.
  3. About 11% of adults in South Africa are diagnosed with major depression, of whom women account for 70%.
Some people tend to be quieter and more withdrawn than others. This does not mean they are diagnosable with depression. However, watch out for pattern change; in other words, when you or a loved one does not feel, think or act as normal for more than two weeks.

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If you or a loved one is struggling with Depression, we suggest the following options:
  1. call your GP (if available);
  2. go to your nearest hospital emergency room;
  3. call one of the following emergency numbers: SADAG (the South African Depression and Anxiety Group) 24-hour helpline: 0800 456 789 or suicide crisis line: 0800 567 567; or
  4. visit Wie is ek? - directory website for professional help in your area follow the link