This is a serious mood disorder that anyone can experience. It affects 10% of teens and 17% of adults.
- National Institute of Mental Health



Know the facts.

We all experience ups and downs, good days and bad; but major depression is more serious and long-lasting.

DEFINITION:  Major Depression is a mood disorder marked by intense, long-lasting sadness (two weeks or more) and a loss of interest in once pleasurable activities. Having major depression is very different from feeling sad or being temporarily unhappy.

Unfortunately, too many people with major depression don't seek treatment. There is much needless suffering because they may not recognize the signs of the disorder or they may be embarrassed to admit how they feel because of stigma.

Although treatable, major depression can be life-threatening. While this disorder affects about 17% of the adult population, 11% experience a major depressive episode before age 18.

Symptoms of Major Depression
A person with major depression might...

  • feel persistent sadness, anxiety, or have feelings of emptiness
  • feel hopeless, pessimistic, guilty, worthless, or helpless
  • feel irritable, and/or restless
  • lose interest in activities, friends or hobbies
  • feel fatigue and decreased energy
  • have difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • experience insomnia or sleep too much
  • overeat or lose appetite
  • have thoughts of suicide or make suicide attempts
  • have aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems
  • People suffering from major depression cannot control their symptoms and sometimes do not know why they feel the way they do.

Sadness vs Depression

  • Sadness is an emotional state. People feel sad when bad things happen. However, everyday sadness is not a depressive disorder. When someone is sad, they can manage to cope and soon recover without treatment. Major depression is a serious mood disorder that requires treatment.


Situational Depression

  • can be triggered by a life trauma (like the death of a loved one).
  • can be triggered by environmental or external factors
  • often goes away in time
  • Unlike major depression, someone with situational depression can still experience joyful moments.
  • NOTE: Talking about the problem can ease the recovery process.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

  • can lead to social withdrawal.
  • can lead to increased sleep.
  • can lead to weight gain.
  • predictably returns every year.
  • NOTE: Symptoms tend to show up in winter when there are fewer hours of daylight. (This tends to occur at higher latitudes. As an example, an individual from Southern California who goes to college in New England or Washington may be susceptible.)
  • Regular exercise, learning to deal with stress and difficulties, and choosing healthy foods can help manage the symptoms of depression. 
  • Reducing screen time and increasing outdoor activities can be beneficial. 
  • Working with a mental health professional and taking medication prescribed by a psychiatrist are possible forms of treatment. 
  • Family and friends provide important support. 

Although treatable, depression can be life-threatening.


  • Don’t take a friend’s withdrawal personally.
  • Understand that someone with major depression or situational depression may not want to hang out with you. This is because of the depression, not because of you.
  • It can be difficult to be friends with someone diagnosed with depression. They can tend to isolate, be volatile or have bouts of anger.
  • Try to create regular opportunities to connect (e.g., having lunch together every Tuesday).


  • Educate yourself about the disorder.
  • Listen to your friend when they want to talk.
  • Keep checking in with your friend.
  • Use 1st person language. Say,
    “My friend has major depression.” not “My friend is always depressed or depressing to be around.”
  • Reassure your friend of your support and understanding.
  • People suffering from depression cannot control their symptoms and sometimes do not know why they feel the way they do. They may need extra understanding, because they may be very down or have low energy.


  • “It’s not your fault.”
  • “I’m listening.”
  • “I am here for you.”
  • “It’s the illness that causes these thoughts and feelings.”
  • “This must be really difficult for you.”


  • “It’s all in your head.”
  • “What’s wrong with you?”
  • “Get over yourself, you have no reason to feel that way.”
  • “Shouldn’t you be better by now?”


  • ...tell a friend to “Snap out of it!”
  • ...diagnose.
  • ...gossip.
  • ...take your friend’s withdrawal personally. 

Find additional information on our Mental Health Disorders page and other suggestions on our Understanding Stigma page >>

Can you answer these questions?

  1. What is major depression?
  2. What are some symptoms of major depression?
  3. How is being really sad different from situational depression? How is situational depression different from Major Depression?
  4. What types of treatment are available for people experiencing the symptoms of major depression?
  5. What can you do to support someone with major depression?
  6. How do you think stigma might affect a person with major depression?

*Hint: Read the MAJOR DEPRESSION facts at the top of this page to find the answers for 1-5. And view our Understanding Stigma page for question #6.



depression vs sadness

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11 things people with depression would like you to understand

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Ellie's depression

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Know the facts.

Fact: Depression is a serious mood disorder and medical condition that affects the whole body. Depression impacts the way a person feels, thinks and acts. 

People suffering from depression cannot simply "pull themselves up" while experiencing the symptoms of depression.  

According to the Mayo Clinic, people with depression actually have physical differences in their brain, along with neurotransmitter and hormone imbalances.

Categorizing this condition as a matter of character can deter people from seeking the treatment they deserve and need.

- Adapted from Huffington Post and National Institute of Mental Health

Fact: Depression can be triggered by something in the environment, like a divorce or other traumatic experience such as the death of a loved one. But depression often is not triggered by any particular incident.

People with depression can have loving families, good jobs, and good friends, yet they suffer from "prolonged episodes" (prolonged = at least 2 weeks) of hopelessness, emptiness and lethargy.

-Adapted from  (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Fact: Many people suffering from depression feel overwhelming sadness, but many don't feel any specific emotion at all.

A better description would be a feeling of emptiness and apathy.

And since anxiety often accompanies depression, many feel a constant state of tension that persists for  no reason.

- Adapted from the National Institute of Mental Health

Fact: Not everyone benefits from antidepressants. By some estimates, nearly 40% of those who take prescribed antidepressant medication will experience no benefits.

Some people respond better to forms of psychotherapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), or a combination of medication and therapy.

Even someone who gets good results from an antidepressant can, with medical supervision, eventually taper off antidepressant medication and never again experience depression.

- Adapted from Forbes

Fact: Just as people with an ulcer or diabetes can't "snap out of it," neither can people who have clinical depression. Although we don't know the exact cause of clinical depression, we do know it is a medical illness with biological components. We also know that genetics and certain chemicals play a part. People who suffer from depression are not lazy or weak. They  don't want to feel like they do.
- Adapted from West Virginia University



It's OK to ask for help.
Talk to a trusted adult.

Visit and access the all new YouthWell Community Resources Directory. You will find youth behavioral health and wellness resources in this resource directory.

If you or someone you know has harmed themselves or is in immediate risk of harm CALL 911 immediately.

SAFTY ~ Safe Alternatives for Treating Youth 

  • 888-334-2777 - SAFTY is a mobile crisis response service available daily 8am-8pm, providing crisis intervention, phone, and in-home support, and linkage to mental health services. Available to all SB County youth, age 0-20, regardless of insurance or ability to pay. 

Crisis Text Line

  • Text SIGNS to 741741 for 24/7, anonymous, free crisis counseling.
    Crisis Text Line serves anyone, in any type of crisis, providing access to free, 24/7 support and information via text. A live, trained Crisis Counselor receives the text and responds quickly.

Suicide, Substance Abusee or Mental Health Lifeline

  • Text 988 - Connects callers to a trained counselor at a crisis center closest to them

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

  • Call 1-800-273-8255 - 24-hour, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.

Trevor Project for LGBTQ+ support, and youth in crisis - provides 24/7 crisis support services to LGBTQ young people

  • Call 866-488-7386 or Text START to 678678

Learning about mental health is the first step to wellness. The Mental Wellness Center (MWC) can help families find medical and professional care, as well as teach important skills on how to manage your mental health. Many families in our community have teenagers who are struggling with depression, anxiety, ADHD and other mental health issues. It can be overwhelming as a parent to find support for your teenager and difficult to talk about these issues. The MWC is focused on providing a safe and confidential space for families to connect with others, access community resources and get the support your family needs.