Depression is a common mood disorder that affects people of all ages and genders. According to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017, 264 million people worldwide are affected by depression. A local study by the University of Hong Kong suggested that around 11.2% of Hong Kong’s population were identified with probable depression in late 2019, an increase from previous years. Therefore, it is important to learn how to recognise this disorder and seek help when necessary.
The symptoms of depression
When we encounter difficulties in life, we may feel disappointed and sad. However, when depressed mood is severe enough to warrant a mood disorder, people usually experience more than just feeling down. The symptoms of depression can be described in four categories listed below.
Emotional: the person experiences a depressed mood most of the day; they may also experience loss of interest and/or pleasure.
Behavioural: the person may become socially withdrawn, no longer participate in previously enjoyable activities, and may appear sluggish in speech and/or body movement; the person may also exhibit self-harm behaviour or attempt suicide.
Cognitive: the person may find it difficult to concentrate and/or make decisions; they may also experience low self-esteem, excessive guilt, thoughts of being helpless or hopeless, and/or thoughts of death.
Physical: the person may feel fatigued, experience significant changes in appetite and/or body weight, and may find it difficult to sleep or have excessive sleep.
If these symptoms have persisted two weeks or longer and affected people’s daily functioning, they may be suffering from a depressive disorder and professional help should be sought.
The treatments for depression
Psychotherapy (such as cognitive behavioural therapy) and antidepressant medication are both effective treatments for depression. Psychotherapy is usually provided by clinical psychologists, whereas antidepressant medication is prescribed by physicians or psychiatrists.
How to support someone with depression
We should not expect people suffering from a depressive disorder to “get over it” by themselves, as symptoms of the disorder could have prevented them from taking effective action.
We can be a good listener and encourage (but not force) them to share their feelings and difficulties. We can listen with patience and acceptance and avoid blaming them for their symptoms.
We can also encourage or help them get professional treatment. If you suspect an imminent risk of suicide, please get professional help or call 999 as soon as possible.
For more information on mental health problems and help-seeking resources, you may visit: https://shallwetalk.hk/en/
If you need help with mental health problems, please call:
- Hospital Authority Mental Health 24-hour Hotline: 2466 7350
- Social Welfare Department Hotline: 2343 2255