Depression is the second-most common mental health condition, affecting between 6-10% of the general population at any one time, and is perhaps the most misunderstood.  A person might refer to themselves as “depressed” if they are feeling “bummed”, whereas another may be depressed to the point of being unable to eat, sleep, go to work or socialize.  Complicating matters, there are different degrees of depression, different types of depression and symptoms also vary from person to person.

Regardless, there are some telltale signs and symptoms that indicate that you may be depressed:

  • Low mood or lack of interest or pleasure in most things, consistently for most of the day for at least two weeks.  Others may experience this as irritability, feeling “flat,” “empty,” “uninterested,” “really down,” “totally sad”, “irritable… everything sets me off”
  • Low energy
  • Sleeping too little (insomnia) or too much (hypersomnia)
  • Feeling agitated mentally (anxiety) or physically (pacing, unable to keep still)
  • Feeling slowed down mentally or physically
  • Poor concentration
  • Poor memory
  • Excessive or inappropriate guilt
  • Poor appetite or significant weight loss
  • Increased appetite or noticeable weight gain
  • Low self-esteem
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Excessive worry; dwelling on negative thoughts
  • Periods of crying, sometimes for seemingly “no reason”
  • In rare cases, a person may hear voices that feel like they are coming from outside their head, often making negative comments about them, or commanding them to do something. Hearing voices, particularly voices telling you to harm yourself or someone else, is a medical emergency. Call 9-1-1 or proceed to your hospital emergency department now.
  • Having suicidal thoughts either with or without a suicide plan

The presence of suicidal thoughts or feelings is serious and requires immediate help.  If you are in British Columbia, call 1-800-SUICIDE, available 24/7. A trained suicide response worker will help assess your risk and link you with the appropriate help.  Calls from concerned family members or friends are also welcome. Elsewhere, contact your local distress line.

Click here to download a copy of a depression checklist that you can complete and show to your physical or other mental health professional.

Causes and Contributing Factors

To date, no research has been able to definitively identify a single cause of depression.  The way that depression manifests varies, as does the characteristics of those who are afflicted, leading to a complex mix of factors.  What can be said is that biological, genetic, social and psychological factors all seem to play a role.  Some believe in the “stress-diathesis” model, which suggests that some human beings are biologically pre-programmed towards depression, but that a stressful event, or combination of triggers is what “activates” the person’s biology and triggers a depressive episode.

Most of us know depressed people who come from a long line of depressed family members, others know of people who have become clinically depressed following a divorce, restructuring at work or physical health problems.  Research also has been demonstrating that the experience of trauma, especially in the first few years of life, produces structural changes in the brain that increase vulnerability to depression.

Help and Treatment

When you’re depressed it can seem almost impossible to imagine that something can be done to help you. Depression by its very nature is isolating, or what is sometimes referred to as “the dark night of the soul.” Over the years I have seen and helped many people recover from depression, including severe depressive episodes. If you would like to take the first step and start your healing journey, I invite you to contact me today. Or, learn more about my approach for helping with depression as well as other available treatment methods.  I also invite you to check out my tips for helping with depression.

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Recommended Books

The book links on this page are Amazon Associate links; if you choose to make a purchase through them, I may earn a small commission which I use to fund my low-cost counselling resource lists. Your support is greatly appreciated.

How To Keep House While Drowning: A Gentle Approach to Cleaning and Organizing by KC Davis (2022)

While Marie Kondo taught me to let go of a lot, KC Davis helped me to forgive myself, no matter the state of my home. A boon to neurodivergent folks, those struggling with mental health issues, or anyone else who is overwhelmed by life, therapist KC Davis, offers practical, forgiving strategies and care tasks that we can all use. Highly recommended.

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison (1995)

A personal account of bipolar disorder; the author is also a clinical psychologist.


9-8-8 Suicide Crisis Helpline

Call or text 9-8-8, from anywhere in Canada, 24/7.

Discovery College – Canadian Mental Health Association

A wealth of free online mental-health related courses, developed in conjunction with people who have lived experience.


Online non-profit initiative from Queen’s University to help the public learn non-drug treatments for insomnia, primarily Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I).

Anger – A Self-Help Guide by Moodjuice

A self-help and educational guide about anger, from the counselling department at McGill University.

Vancouver Low-Cost Counselling List

List of private master’s-level counsellors, or their interns, offering subsidized counselling. Updated quarterly.

Nurses Line – Health Link BC

Call 8-1-1 to speak with a registered nurse 24/7. Other professionals available through this line include after-hours pharmacists, exercise professionals and dieticians

Kelty’s Key Online Therapy

Free, self-directed online cognitive behavioural therapy.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)

Web-based learning of DBT skills. Particularly useful for those without access to individualized programming, or to supplement an existing group DBT program.

Crisis Services and Hotlines in Vancouver

Resource list, updated quarterly.

Bounce Back Program

Telephone coaching for people with mild-moderate depression with or without accompanying anxiety. Coaching available in English, Cantonese, French and Punjabi. Family doctor’s referral required to access this program. Free.

Mind Shift CBT

App developed by the folks at Anxiety Canada to help manage anxiety symptoms and promote relaxation.

Reduced-Cost Counselling [PDF]

A resource list of lower-cost professional counselling options in Vancouver. Corrections and suggestions welcome.

Canada’s Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines

Revised in January 2023.

Mood Gym

Online self-help program for depression and anxiety, using cognitive behavioural principles (CBT).

Relaxation Audio Download

From the people at Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction (CARMHA). Scroll down for link.

Canadian Mental Health Association

National organization promoting mental health for all.

Vancouver Access and Assessment Centre (AAC)

604-675-3700 – Joseph and Rosalie Segal Centre, Vancouver Hospital, Level 1, East Entrance

7 days a week: 7:30am-11pm. Phone, walk-in and outreach support for urgent, non life-threatening mental health and addictions issues. Response times vary. Serves residents of Vancouver.

Anxiety Canada

National organization providing information and extensive online resources for managing anxiety.

Here to Help

BC-based website offering comprehensive information on a wealth of mental health conditions and addictions concerns.


24-7 crisis service for anyone that is suicidal, thinking about suicide or for concerned friends/family. BC-wide service.

SAFER, Vancouver Coastal Health

Time-limited counselling support for adults who have made a suicide attempt, or are experiencing suicidal thoughts; also offers support and education for people who are concerned about a loved one with suicidal ideation, or are grieving their loss by suicide.

Coping With Suicidal Thoughts

Self-help guide (pdf). Not intended to replace professional help.

Antidepressant Skills Workbook

Free self-care manual for depression, available in several languages. Persons with major depression should also seek help from a physician and/or professional counselling.

Mood Disorders Association of BC

Support groups, education, info and referral to people living with depression or bipolar disorder and their supporters. The MDA also has a counselling clinic.