Depression: what you need to know

If you have depression, you are not alone. It is one of the most common mental health issues in Australia. The sooner you get help, the more likely you are to get better. Keep reading to find out more about depression and the things that can help you feel better.

Depression: what you need to know

Depression: what you need to know

If you have depression, you are not alone. It is one of the most common mental health issues in Australia. The sooner you get help, the more likely you are to get better. Keep reading to find out more about depression and the things that can help you feel better.


What is depression?

Depression can be feelings of sadness or tiredness that do not go away. People with depression might also stop wanting to do things they used to enjoy.

Depression can change how you think, feel and act. It can affect many parts of daily life, like work, study, relationships and home life. A life event may cause depression but there is not always a reason why it happens.

There are different ways to help someone if they have depression. It may take weeks or months to start feeling better. The first step is talking to someone about it.

Who can get depression?

Anyone can get depression at any stage of life, from children to young people and adults. Many people with major depression first get it in their mid-20s.

There has been a lot of research done to try and understand what can cause some people to get depression. This research shows that the condition is complex. There is no single cause or reason. Biology, life events and environment can all contribute. This means everyone with depression will need individual ways to help them recover.

Some people may have a higher chance of depression because:

  • other people in their family have also had depression,
  • they have had traumatic life experiences like abuse, neglect, coming from a country in war,
  • parts of their life are difficult, like not having a job or not having a home to live in,
  • they have health problems that are long term,
  • they have other mental health problems.

Depression is more common in women than men. It is also more common in people from minority or less supported communities. For example, LGBTIQ+ and Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander communities.

How do I know if I might have depression?

Depression does not feel or look the same for all people. It can take days or weeks for signs of depression to start showing. Sometimes a single event can cause it to happen.

Speak with a health professional you trust if you notice:

  • Low mood/loss of interest in things you used to enjoy
  • Change in weight or how much you eat
  • Change in sleep
  • Always feeling restless
  • Loss of energy or always tired
  • Feeling that you are not important
  • Problems concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or wanting to harm yourself

Your health professional can help work out if what you have might be depression or something else. Sometimes other health issues or even medicines can cause some of these signs.

Because depression is different for everyone, the way to take care of it will be different too.

How do I get help?

Make an appointment with a doctor you trust if you think you might have depression. If you are not ready to talk with them you can call a support service. Go to Help lines and support groups for details.

Talking to a trusted family member, friend, or another health professional can also help.

Sometimes people feel like nothing will help, or that they should be strong enough to solve their own problems. This can be the depression making them think this way.

It’s OK to ask questions

Depression is different for everyone, so the way to take care of it will be different too. These questions might be useful for you to ask when talking with a health professional.

  • What are my treatment options?
  • How can these options help and what are my chances of feeling better?

What unwanted effects can these options cause and what are my chances of this happening? If you’re having thoughts of harming yourself, get help straight away:

Lifeline 13 11 14 or text 0477 131 114 or chat at

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 or get online support at

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 or chat at

For immediate help or in an emergency call 000.

You can also go to the emergency department of any hospital in Australia.

What can help?

There are many actions and choices available to help people manage their depression. This factsheet can help explain what choices you have – Anxiety and depression: Find the path that works for you.

Some actions are about changing parts of a person’s lifestyle. Doing these first can give other options like psychology or medicines a better chance of working well. Lifestyle actions are good for your general health. Even after you have recovered from depression.

Get moving

Anxiety_CardStack_Swimming icon

Exercise that gets your heart pumping may help you feel better. This might be walking, swimming, dancing or riding a bike. Using weights to strengthen your muscles and bones may also be helpful. Some people find exercise gives them more energy and helps them sleep better.

Eat well


Good healthy foods are an important part of staying well. If you are not sure what foods are healthy read more about it here.

Cut back on alcohol and other drugs

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Some people use alcohol and other drugs (including nicotine) to help them cope but they only make it worse. Cutting back may help you feel better.

Do things you enjoy

Plan time in your week to do things that make you happy. Think about activities that you have enjoyed. Examples might be:

  • drawing or painting
  • knitting or sewing
  • reading or watching a movie
  • catching up with family or friends.

Psychological treatments

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Psychological treatments can help change the way you think about and react to situations and relationships. Treatments can be:

  • face to face with a health professional
  • over the phone (telehealth) with a health professional, or
  • as an online program or session.


Anxiety_CardStack_Medicine icon

There are some medicines can help some types of depression. They are called antidepressants. These medicines do not work for everyone. They are not recommended as first choice for mild or moderate types of depression. Your doctor will know if a medicine might help you.

You can read more about medicines for depression and anxiety here.

Staying well

Getting help to take care your depression is a great first step to getting well. Just remember – it can take time to start feeling better.

Helping yourself

There are many things you can do in your daily life to cope with depression. This includes:

  • being active
  • eating healthy foods
  • getting enough sleep
  • cutting back on alcohol, nicotine and other drugs
  • finding time to do things you enjoy.

For some people, doing one or some of these things will be enough to help. Other people do them at the same time as using medicines or psychological treatment.

CBT results may last longer than a medicine

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a type of psychological treatment. Research shows it is helpful for people with depression. For some people CBT may keep them better for longer, compared with taking medicines.

Take the full course of medicine

If you are prescribed a medicine, you will need to keep taking it for a while after you have recovered. This will lower the chance of the depression coming back. Talk to your doctor about how long you will need treatment.

If you are taking medicine but do not feel better, make an appointment with your doctor. Do not stop taking the medicine without speaking to them.

Watch out for signs of depression coming back

Some people may have depression once in their lifetime. Other people may find their depression will come and go. Make a plan with your health professional about what to do if you have signs of depression in the future.

Some events in life cause more stress than others. These events may cause your depression to come back. Try to understand what you can do if those events happen, to lower the chance of having depression again.

Help lines and support groups

The table below has phone numbers you can call any time of the day and any day of the week (24/7).

Emergency and crisis helplines



Service offered

Suicide Call Back Service

1300 659 467

24/7 counselling for people at risk of suicide, carers and bereaved

MensLine Australia

1300 78 99 78

24/7 support for men dealing with relationship and family issues


13 11 14

24/7 support for those thinking about suicide or experiencing a personal crisis

Kids Help Line

1800 55 1800

24/7 counselling for young people 5-25 years

Telephone Interpreter Service

131 450

If English is not your first language, call the Telephone Interpreter Service for assistance calling a helpline

Support groups (phone and online)

Getting together with other people who know what it’s like to go through depression, or care for someone with depression, can be very helpful.

You can find a support group through your state mental health association, The Black Dog Institute or GROW.

The table below shows different groups that might be helpful to look up on the internet or to call.

What information do you need?

Link to web page and phone number

Suicide prevention

Lifeline, telephone 13 11 14

Suicide Prevention Australia

General information about depression

beyondblue, telephone 1300 224 636

The Black Dog Institute

The Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety and Depression (CRUfAD)

SANE Australia



head to health

Depression while pregnant or after having a baby

Just Speak Up

For men

MensLine Australia

For kids

Kids Helpline

For teens and young adults

Youth beyondblue


For people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities

Mental health in multicultural Australia

Embrace Multicultural Mental Health

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples



For LGBTQI+ people and their loved ones

QLife, telephone 1800 184 527