Rising Rates of Situational Depression – In Depressing Times

Rising rates of depression in depressing times makes sense – situational depression . Depression is often considered an invisible illness. It certainly is not noticeable like the flu, a bruise, cut or broken bone. Instead, the depressed person silently suffers at their desks or behind closed doors, but there is a better way. Let’s Talk. 

Depression is nothing to be ashamed of, but it’s something many of us don’t talk about. Is it because there’s still a stigma, making depression seem like something to hide or avoid? Whether we want to talk about it or not, we cannot avoid depression in our communities anymore.

Depression is a global issue on the rise. The number of people living with depression increased 18%, according to  World Health Organization (WHO). With now more than 300 million people of all ages suffering, it is the leading cause of disability worldwide.  

This should really be no surprise. With environmental decline worldwide, with extreme weather events, climate change, water crises and societal upheavals like high debt, poor housing, inadequate healthcare, a changing workplace with automation, high unemployment or underemployment, and the list goes on… There are good reasons to be depressed.

Yet it should be understood that there is a distinction between situational depression, which is a normal reaction to events, and clinical or endogenous depression from within. Rather than suppress and hide from clinical depression, it is best to get help. Clinical depression is a medical diagnosis and often requires treatment.

Situational Depression 

Situational depression is quite common and normally follows stressful situations or losses. It is caused by life-altering events such as a death in the family, a new job, or a major change in a relationship. It is caused by disasters; man-made or natural. Other factors are psychological, like negative belief systems about self, world, future, biology, etc which can also be factors in clinical depression.

Situational depression is normal because a crisis whether personally or globally will affect us.

Depression is a major contributor to the burden of disease globally. Millions of people are depressed and whole communities are affected, yet only a fraction will get support or treatment for their mental wellbeing.

But it does not have to be this way, we can empower our healing. We need to understand…

Depression is not only in the mind. It is in the body. And it is not just a bad day or week.  It hurts all over.  It is in the body, emotions, mind and spirit (whether or not there is a belief in the spirit). Unfortunately, pain is part of depression whether a dull ache or a stabbing pain.

Too often suicide is the option people use to end the pain.  At its worst, depression can lead to suicide. Close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds.

It can affect anyone, at any point in their lives. Actually many people have both anxiety and depression simultaneously. Often depression is characterized by episodes of persistent and pervasive low mood, reduced interest in pleasurable activities, pessimistic ideas about self, the world and the future and changes in functions like sleeping, eating and general self-care.

The most important thing to remind ourselves before labeling ourselves as ‘depressed’, possibly exacerbating the problem, is that there needs to be a lot of symptoms going on at the same time to qualify. It’s not enough to just be feeling down in the dumps because we were dumped by a boy or girlfriend.


Depression is not just mood fluctuations

Depression is different from usual mood fluctuations and short-lived emotional responses to challenges in everyday life. Especially when long-lasting and with moderate or severe intensity, depression may become a serious health condition. It causes the depressed person to have trouble functioning at work, school and in the family.

Major Clinical Depression 

To qualify for major depressive disorder you need to have two symptoms out of the nine listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-N) of the American Psychiatric Association: sadness, diminished pleasure, weight loss or gain, trouble sleeping, fatigue or malaise, guilt, diminished concentration, and recurrent thoughts of death. The diagnosis requires that these symptoms be experienced almost every day for at least two weeks, and are more intense than the normal fluctuations in mood.

Depression causes significant changes of significant duration to longstanding patterns of thought, emotion, and behavior. Many of these changes can move in either direction from the usual baseline.

When depressed, some people can’t sleep at all while others spend all their time in bed, for example. What is important is that these symptoms deviate significantly from the norm. But ‘normal’ from one person to another might be quite different meaning that we need to have an accurate picture of what each sufferer’s normal patterns of behavior have been over the last months and years.

When living with depression, talking to a person the depressive person trusts is a great first step towards recovery.

WHO is encouraging everyone to discuss mental health on World Health Day (April 7) in order to eliminate stigma and increase access to mental health treatment.  The idea is that more people will get the help they deserve with less stigma. This year’s Health Day motto is “Depression: let’s talk”.




World health day information

Let’ Talk Campaign essentials

WHO Fact Sheet

WHO videos on Depression

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