Also known as:
Depression is extremely common in New Zealand, with 1 in 6 people experiencing it at some point during their lifetime.
Depression can affect people at any age, from children through to older adults. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression than men. It’s not clear whether this is because depression affects females more, or if males are less likely to seek help.
Symptoms range in severity, from feeling generally low to thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
Treatments include lifestyle changes, psychological therapy and medications – often a combination of different treatments is used.
Depression is not a sign of weakness. It’s a treatable illness.
If you or someone you know is experiencing depression, you should seek help from your GP or healthcare professional.
What causes depression?
The actual cause of depression is unknown as it can be triggered by different things in different people.
That said, there are many factors that can contribute to depression, including:
A history of depression or other mental illnesses in the family
Experiencing trauma or abuse
Dealing with a chronic illness like diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, and so on
Going through a major life event like losing a loved one, losing a job, breaking up with a partner or having a big accident
Recently having a baby
Using recreational drugs
Taking some medications – e.g. hormone medications can have mood-related side-effects.
A persisting low mood
Frequently feeling sad or tearful
Loss of appetite or overeating
Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
Feeling tired a lot
Loss of pleasure
A lack of interest in things that used to bring joy
Trouble concentrating and getting tasks done
Thoughts of self-harm or suicide (in extreme cases)
Talking therapy in the form of counselling or psychotherapy
Lifestyle changes like improving sleep and diet, increasing exercise and reducing alcohol intake and usage of recreational drugs
Medications such as antidepressants – these are usually reserved for patients with severe symptoms
Some people find that self-care techniques can also help to relieve some symptoms of depression. These include:
Getting out in nature
Connecting with whānau/family and friends
Kaupapa Māori health and wellbeing
The Māori models of health and wellbeing are holistic. Healthcare professionals and services who have a kaupapa Māori approach to oranga (wellbeing) may utilise one or more of these health models:
Te Whare Tapa Whā
Wellbeing that taps into the 4 cornerstones of health:
Whānau (family and social wellbeing)
Tinana (physical wellbeing)
Hinengaro (psychological wellbeing)
Wairua (spiritual wellbeing)
Te Pae Mahutonga
Demonstrating the coming together of modern health promotion elements through the Southern Cross star constellation. The 4 central stars represent key tasks:
Mauriora (cultural identity)
Waiora (physical environment)
Toiora (healthy lifestyles)
Te Oranga (participation in society)
The 2 pointer stars represent:
Ngā Manukura (community leadership)
Te Mana Whakahaere (autonomy)
Antidepressants are used to treat severe cases of depression where psychotherapy and lifestyle changes alone are not enough.
The most common type of antidepressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (or SSRIs).
How long does depression last?
There are different kinds of depression, each of which can last for different lengths of time. These include:
Major depressive disorder can have mild to moderate symptoms, affecting a person’s sleep, appetite and overall joy. How long it lasts depends on the patient.
Persistent depressive disorder affects a person’s mood and lasts for 2 years or longer.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder is a severe form of PMS that affects some people just before they get their periods.
Postpartum depression affects some people after giving birth and can last anywhere from 4 weeks to over a year, depending on the person.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects some people in the darker, winter months when they’re getting less vitamin D from the sun.
Other depressive disorders can be brought on by medications, substance abuse or other triggers. How long these types of depressions last will differ from person to person.
Regular exercise and a healthy diet can help to improve overall mental health.
Self-care techniques like mediation, mindfulness and journaling can help to reduce stress and put strategies in place to deal with triggers.
Which specialist should I visit?
Mental health counsellor
Family and marriage counsellor
Depression can affect people at any time of year. However, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) only occurs during the winter months.
Experiencing depression? Tend doctors can help
Depression and other mental health issues are issues that can be sensitive, and not always easy to speak about. An online appointment with a Tend doctor means you can feel safe and at ease in the comfort of your own space, talking about what's going on for you.
Tend doctors come from many walks of life, and take a patient-first approach. That means, we take the time to actively listen to what's happening in your life, but also find out more about your background and what kinds of treatments would work best for you.
There's no one-size fits all when it comes mental health. You can book an online appointment with a Tend doctor through your app.
If you, or someone you know, requires emergency care for any issues related to mental health, please contact your local Crisis Assessment Team through the Ministry of Health.
Clinically reviewed by: Dr Mataroria Lyndon
Date of review: 5th August 2021