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What is depression?

what is depressionDepression is a mental health condition which affects a person’s thinking, feelings, energy and behaviour

The World Health Organisation defines depression as “a common mental disorder, characterized by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness and poor concentration” (WHO, 2017).

Approximately one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year [1].

Depression is much more than having ‘a bad day’.

Symptoms of depression

Depression has eight main symptoms. If you experience five or more of these symptoms, lasting for a period of two weeks or more, please speak to a GP or mental health professional. The symptoms of depression are


Feeling - sad, anxious, guilty, hopeless

Energy - low energy, feeling tired or fatigued

Sleeping - under or over-sleeping, waking frequently, change to your normal pattern

Thinking - poor concentration, thinking slowed down

Interest - loss of interest in hobbies, family or social life, things that normally give you pleasure

Value - low self-esteem

Aches - with no physical basis, e.g. chest, head or tummy pain associated with anxiety or stress

Loss of interest - in living, thinking about death, suicidal thoughts


What causes it?

Depression has a number of possible causes. For some people it happens because of a traumatic life event such as bereavement, relationship breakdown, financial difficulties or bullying. In other situations the person may have an inherent tendency towards depression. For some there may be genetic factors.

What should I do if I think I am depressed?

The most important thing to do is to seek help.  One option is to speak to a doctor or mental health professional. If you have five or more FESTIVAL symptoms (see above) for two weeks or more, help is available for you.

For further resources and information around depression, see our Resources page