Everyone feels down from time to time and this is quite normal. A person suffering from depression feels down ALL THE TIME! Depression affects the whole person – body, mind and behavior.  This is not a weakness or something you can “”snap out of” or pull yourself out of. It is an illness. It affects 20% of the population and manifests through a combination of symptoms. The symptoms are numerous and include; persistent sadness, loss of interest in life, feelings of guilt, worthlessness and hopelessness. Insomnia, change in appetite and energy levels. Suicidal thoughts, irritability and restlessness, physical symptoms- headaches, pain. Increased use of alcohol,drugs and deterioration of close relationships. Depression affects people of all ages and stages of life.

Children: 2 in 100 children are affected. Generally from broken homes or have suffered some sort of trauma. Families or teachers notice behaviour changes in the child. They might become quiet and withdrawn and not cope with school work.

Adolescents: 5 in 100 adolescents may be affected with depression. Many experience down moods due to hormonal changes, however when it effects social interactions, schoolwork and daily activities and is persistant the depression must be treated. Depression may cause suicide and in South Africa 9% of teens deaths are caused by suicide.

Elderly: Various triggers for depression in the elderly include illness, pain, loneliness, financial worries and bereavement. Depression is treatable in the elderly and should not be confused with dementia.
Childbirth: 85% of women experience the “baby blues” and this is generally short lived and with support of family and friends usually lasts no more than two weeks. However 20% of all new moms are affected by post-partum depression, which is when the “baby blues” persist. This type of depression may be severe and can may even lead to hospitalization of the new mother.

Antidepressant medication is very effective, most people recover while others need to stay on medication or change the type of medication. Therapy with a professionally trained therapist is used in conjunction with antidepressant medication. The combination provides good, lasting results particulary in the very depressed patient.
A holistic approach to treatment is also advised and could include exercise, healthy diet, encouraging the patient to avoid dependency type habits, relaxation, lifestyle or workload changes and engaging in a hobby.