What causes depressive illness?

  • Depression is a biological illness related to an imbalance or disruption of brain chemistry.
  • The brain is an organ of the body and can get sick just like the heart, liver, or kidneys.
  • A mix of genetic, physiological, psychological and environmental factors impact how and when depressive illness presents itself.
  • Sometimes, there are seemingly no underlying causes for depression.
  • People of all ages, including infants and children (who may be born with a chemical imbalance), can suffer from depressive illnesses.
  • Genetics can, and often do, play a role. Someone with a family history of depression may be at higher risk. But it’s important to note that not everyone with depression in their family history will end up with a depressive illness.

Can depressive illnesses be treated?

Yes. Just like other illnesses – diabetes or high blood pressure, for instance – depression can be effectively managed with the help of medication and/or therapy. The best place to begin is with a family physician.

Is depression the same as the blues?

No. All of us go through occasional periods of feeling down. After suffering a trauma or loss, it’s absolutely normal to experience sadness, loss of sleep, (etc.) for a period. But depression is different. It’s a brain illness that has specific symptoms.

Why don’t people talk about depression and suicide?

Odd, isn’t it? We’ve become used to seeing commercials for erectile dysfunction and personal hygiene products. We can talk about AIDS without flinching. But suicide and depression are still topics that make us uncomfortable. The problem is stigma. People who have depression are worried that others will think they’re weak, or worse, crazy.

This comes from a lack of understanding about mental illness. The good news is that things are changing. More people understand that depression is a legitimate, treatable illness, and more people who experience symptoms are willing to seek and accept help. The more we talk about it – openly  and honestly – the more we’ll see stigma continue to lessen.

Where can I get help?