Friend of a Depressed University Student

“I dropped out of McGill University because of depression. It was the type that begins as a barely perceptible malaise but quickly penetrates your mind and renders you nearly unable to speak, think, or even walk.”

Susannah Feinstein wrote the above in an article for The McGill Daily, where she tells her own personal experience battling with depression. Reading her story seemed all too familiar to me. One of my best friends went through, and is going through, the exact same thing. I remember the shock I felt when I found out that they dropped out of their university.

“My friends and professors had no idea that I was having personal issues, because I appeared fine. I still went to parties, and talked with friends for hours. I even comforted a few people who might have been facing depression themselves but privately I was unraveling. I started to have outbursts of anger or sadness. The second I was alone, I’d cry almost uncontrollably. I had to leave classes to cry. I had to leave conferences to cry.”

Just like Susannah, my friend hid it well. They were always the most talkative, charismatic person in the room, and everybody loved them. I had no idea what was going on behind that. I had no idea that my friend was going through an inner turmoil that nobody they knew could relate to. I had no idea, even after I found out… what I could do as a friend. I never knew anybody with depression, and this was one of my best friends. Where could they go for help? Who can help?

“McGill is struggling financially and McGill Mental Health Services are operating on a very limited budget. If students are guaranteed access to these services, I see no issue. The real problem with these services is that they’re incompatible with the needs of a deeply depressed person at almost every level. A triage therapist might misdiagnose you. They might see hundreds of students a week and be unconsciously eager to get you out of the office. Overcoming a bout of depression will take many appointments. It might take dozens of therapists until you even find one with whom you’re comfortable. If you’re feeling really low, you might not even have the energy or motivation to make an appointment. It’s incredibly difficult to address mental health issues at any large university, not just McGill.”

And that is exactly what happened with my friend. When they finally decided to reach out to the school mental health services, they did not like the counselor and could not get the help they needed. As a result, they had to move back home to see someone else. A major issue we have on university campuses is allowing an environment where everybody—students, faculty, staff, counselors—feel comfortable talking about it, and not just behind closed doors in the Mental Health Services rooms. We need to speak up and advocate for better services for those with mental health issues, we need to bring that level of care to campus grounds so that people don’t feel like they need to leave university to receive adequate care.

My friend still has not returned to university yet, and I hope that when they do, the school will be a much more inviting place for people struggling with depression to be in.

~ Mei, Humans of Depression Representative

#LetsTalkD #

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The above quotes are taken from Macleans.


Seasonal Affective Disorder

Depression is a debilitating chronic illness, and often difficult to treat .When it comes to dealing with seasonal affective disorder — an extreme lethargy and sadness that accompanies the onset of winter. It is known to have a seasonal pattern, with US data suggesting summer and winter peaks

People with this condition lose steam when the days get shorter and the nights longer. Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include loss of pleasure and energy, feelings of worthlessness, inability to concentrate, and uncontrollable urges to eat sugar and high-carbohydrate foods. The risk factors associated with SAD are female, age, family history and living away from equator. Although they fade with the arrival of spring, seasonal affective disorder can leave you overweight, out of shape, and with strained relationships and employment woes.

Winter depressions, but not summer depressions, have been shown to be responsive to light therapy . Given that vitamin D is widely deficient in Western populations, and that there is a demonstrated association between mood states and seasonality, several studies have investigated the link between vitamin D and depression.

This is especially troublesome for the international students coming new to places like Canada, they must think about developing coping strategies.

Seasonal Effective Disorders- Bring on the light: Michael Craig Miller, M.D.,: Harverd Health Publications; Dec. 2012.

Luiz, C. (2014). Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 19, 2015, from

#LetsTalkD #SeasonalAffectiveDisoder #InternationalStudents

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

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When we are diagnosed with depression and prescribed medication, is there anything else we can do?

Definitely, there is always light at the end of the tunnel, however desperate or helpless we may feel! We are capable of doing so much for ourselves. It is none less than an outstanding achievement having asked for help and accepted medication or therapy, in the first place. Yet, it may benefit us more to think of changing our attitudes towards life, add coping skills to our tool belts, and find appropriate outlets for our stress.

Self-help is an essential component of overcoming depression. It is about recognizing one’s weaknesses and strengths, likes and dislikes. By evaluating ourselves we empower ourselves; setting the stage for true change towards a rewarding and productive life. We can take care of and help ourselves in many ways, including:

  1. Support: It is important to work on and maintain supportive relationships. In a way it prevents our isolation and sense of loneliness as well as boosting our self-confidence. Talking to a spouse or a friend or a parent, may be all the treatment we need especially in mild depression. Even though they may not have solutions or definite advice but just having them listen to us may boost our mood and satisfy our need of feeling loved and appreciated.
  2. Nutrition: It would definitely be worthwhile if we could work on making healthy and well-balanced meals a habit. We had discussed this in one of the earlier blogs, which you may checkout in the following link:

  1. Exercise: Taking up a sport or exercising is always a great idea, given the countless benefits resulting from either. Even though it may be the last thing in our mind, when it comes to dealing with depression, exercise is an asset.
  2. Distraction/Outlets:
  • Music appears to affect brain systems that control emotions and thus may improve our mood. So let us keep that playlist rolling!
  • Watching a funny movie or a TV show may provide all the distraction we need, away from the negative thinking that usually haunts us in depression.
  • Dance has been found to lower levels of stress hormones and significantly lowers levels of depression. Isn’t that convenient? So next time when our favorite tune is on, let us all promise to dance away, we will fight the urge not to, and dance away!
  1. Books: There are many useful self-help books such as The Feeling Good Handbook, that are available on the market today to help us overcome our depression.

Ultimately, it is helpful to acknowledge that our cure lies within us. We are capable, strong and worthy. So let us all do our best to help ourselves because we deserve that.

To end on a sweet note, check out this unique cake shop! It is a simple gesture of solidarity, assuring us that as humans of depression, we are not alone!

~ Faten B., Humans of Depression Representative




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Road to Recovery

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The first step on the road to recovery starts with asking for help.

Once we do that; we are accepting the presence of this illness and empowering ourselves to overcome it. If we are diagnosed with depression, it is not the end of the world. As we learned earlier on, it is a chemical imbalance that needs fixing, similar to other illness brought on by hormonal or chemical imbalances in our bodies.

Yet, when the doctor prescribes medication, some of us are reluctant to comply with it, thinking we don’t need it. While in some cases, where depression is very mild, a few counselling sessions may help, in other cases, anti depressants are absolutely necessary for management.

There are different types of antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and others, which have been all shown to be effective. The key to antidepressants efficiency is to be patient about the results because it may take up to 6 weeks for the drug to work. The length of time, we should take antidepressants for, depends on how severe our illness is and is to be decided by our physician. Although antidepressants may have side effects, we should not stop our medication or even adjust the dose without consulting our doctor, to avoid relapse. Strategies for coping with some of the most common antidepressant side effects such as dizziness, insomnia, and anxiety, can be found here:

It is important to avoid overestimating the role of antidepressants. They are not miracle pills! They are not meant to solve all our problems. They only keep us from feeling overwhelmed, so that we can solve our problems.

That is why the role of counselling and therapy is as important as taking the medication. Another name for therapy is psychological treatment, which helps people to change the negative pattern of thinking and improve their coping skills. Such objectives of therapy enable us to deal with life’s stresses and conflicts in a better and healthier manner. There are different types of behaviour therapies such as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), mindfully based cognitive therapy (MBCT), and behaviour therapy.

It is our right to ask as many questions as we want about our treatment options, but in the end, it would be wise to consider our care provider’s advice on whether antidepressants are essential or not in our case as well as which antidepressant or therapy would be  most appropriate.

~ Faten B., Humans of Depression Representative




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Food Affects Mood!


Depression can affect ones eating habits and a common sign for depression is changes in appetite and weight. Eating healthy while being a university student can already be hard as it is, as many may not have the time to prepare healthy alternatives. I think everyone can relate, especially during exam season. As you can imagine, bad eating habits tend to intensify depression among individuals already suffering or it can lead to eating disorders such bulimia and anorexia nervosa1.

Some may have a decreased appetite and can lead to irregular eating patterns or others may have an appetite for unhealthy foods and gain weight. How do particular foods affect ones mood you ask? There are certain food items that directly affect the chemicals in your brain (neurotransmitters), eating patterns that affect blood sugar levels, which can both affect your mood levels1. This in turn can create vicious mood cycles and contribute to ones depression symptoms to reach its high.

Here are a few things to know that can help improve mood:

  • Eat regular meals, especially breakfast (having a stable intake of blood sugar levels helps stabilize your mood and can prevent those unhealthy cravings!
  • Carbohydrates (i.e., whole grains, fruits, vegetables), vitamins and minerals help the update of serotonin in the brain, lifting your mood
  • Make sure you have a balanced intake of omega 3 & 6 oil, it also helps with mood
  • Avoid crash dieting or over eating (especially very sugary foods!), it contributes to a vicious mood cycle
  • Be aware of side effects of medications, some may increase or decrease ones appetite
  • Exercise! This is the best way to stay fit and increase serotonin levels

Want more tips on healthy eating? Check out our colleagues at

~Joti, Humans of Depression Representative

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Living With Depression & Anxiety


“I grew up with a family that loved me unconditionally, I was a typical child who loved to sing, read and watch movies, but I always felt a little bit different. I constantly worried and it wasn’t until I was older that I understood why.

My first real panic attack was in university, although I didn’t know what it was at the time. I suddenly got the shakes, my heart racing and felt like I couldn’t breathe. That landed me in the emergency department, getting blood tests and EKG’s for my chest pains. When doctors told me they couldn’t find anything wrong with me, I felt embarrassed. I felt crazy when it happened again twice and was told the same thing.

My parents thought I should see a psychologist, and it was then when I learned I was suffering from generalized anxiety disorder. I had uncontrollable worries and felt constantly tense. Sometimes, I would get panic attacks during class. These symptoms would last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour. A year later, I was also diagnosed with depression. My life seemed to be spiraling out of my control. I didn’t know how to deal with it all and I ended up taking a semester off from school and isolated myself from everyone.

It was a battle, but now, although I still worry and get anxious, with the help and support of friends and family, I can say that I haven’t let my anxiety disorders control my life- now I control them.” ~Anonymous

Emotional complexity and functioning challenges influence depression and anxiety. The combined impact these disorders have on one’s life is the most prominently experienced mental health concerns in society. Depression and anxiety can be triggered through a multitude of factors such as emotional, social, physical, environment, nutritional and spiritual factors, however it could also be a result of ones genetic make up2. Anxiety and depression are not the same, but they are interrelated and often occur together2.

Anxiety disorders cause unexpected anxiety that seriously impacts ones life, including how one thinks, feels and acts1. Anxiety can affect anyone for different reasons. Sometimes, it could be triggered by a specific event or stressful life experience1. The different types of anxiety disorders include: panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias and generalized anxiety disorder3. Anxiety disorders cannot be prevented, but with the help of counselling, seeking help from a professional and the support of friends and family can help control or lessen symptoms. Remember, if you are suffering from depression, anxiety, or any other mental disorder, you are not alone and you will get through it!

~Joti, Humans of Depression Representative

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Suicide Ideation


Today’s topic of discussion for this blog may be uncomfortable for some, and is often an avoided discussion, yet it weighs heavily occurring at the hands of depression. Suicide is a reality and more common than you may think. In 2009, suicide was the ninth leading cause of death in Canada and it is the second leading cause of death for those between 15 and 34 years old1. Being a college or university student can lead to a lot of stress. It is a transitioning phase from adolescence to adulthood, and for some, there is more pressure than ever to make something of yourself and be successful. It can cause one to come face to face with many challenges leading to feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and desperation when things just are not falling into place. Rather, everything seems to be spiraling out of control leaving one to have severely depressed feelings that life is unbearable. At times, it can become difficult in this age bracket to distinguish between behaviours of feeling stressed versus the signs that can lead to suicide.

Here are some behaviour changes to watch out for if you suspect someone you know is battling with depression and suicidal thoughts2:

  • Withdrawal from family and peers
  • Loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities
  • Difficulty concentrating on schoolwork
  • Neglect of personal appearance
  • Obvious changes in personality
  • Sadness and hopelessness
  • Changes in eating patterns, such as sudden weight loss or gain
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • General lethargy or lack of energy
  • Violent actions, rebellion, or running away
  • Drug and alcohol use
  • Loss of ability to tolerate praise or rewards

If you or someone you know is thinking of suicide, you may be able to help him/her find better ways to cope. Remember that help for their/your problems is available. Here are a few places to seek help2.

  • Visit your local emergency department or call 911
  • Contact a nurse at Telehealth Ontario by dialing 1-866-797-000
  • Call the Good2Talk support line at 1-866-925-5454 (for post-secondary students in Ontario aged 17-25)
  • Ontario Mental Health Helpline (open 24/7 for treatment anywhere in Ontario) 1-866-531-2600

~Joti, Humans of Depression Representative

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How to prevent the Valentine’s Day blues

120213051345-man-cries-tv-couch-eating-story-topAn excerpt from CNN’s the Chart. For full blog by Anthony Youn, M.D. go to:

Confession: I hate Valentine’s Day.
But I bet I’m not alone.
Many singles use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to engage in unhealthy behavior, such as drinking and self-medicating, to help them forget the date. Growing up, I was no exception.
As a rail-thin, nerdy teenager, I spent every February 14 alone, drinking a two liter of Orange Crush and watching my favorite movie, “The Karate Kid.” I imagined a parallel between this film and my life: Skinny loser nerd overcomes hideous looks, beats up mean jock kids and earns the love of a cute girl.
In college, my Valentine’s Day tradition consisted of binge drinking and overeating – anything to make me forget that I didn’t have a girlfriend. Not only did these unhealthy habits repel the actual women I wanted to attract, but they caused me to feel even worse the next day.
So how do people escape the pain and loneliness of such a holiday?
Here are a few healthy options I recommend to prevent the Valentine’s Day blues:
1) Exercise. Studies show the endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine released during working out can improve your mood. Not only will you feel better, you’ll look better and be healthier.
2) Volunteer for the needy. Several studies have shown that volunteering for the less fortunate has beneficial effects on mood, health and even life span. These benefits can be instantaneous.
A survey published in Psychology Today describes the “Helper’s High” – an immediate euphoric sensation experienced by over half of volunteer respondents.
3) if you can: Travel somewhere sunny. Nearly 10% of Americans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or the winter blues. For many, February is the worst month for SAD. Studies show that sunlight can boost levels of serotonin, counteracting SAD and improving mood.
4) Go to a funny movie. Emotions are contagious. The phenomenon called “emotional contagion” describes the infectious effect that our interactions and surroundings can have on our mood. Watching a humorous movie, reading an enjoyable book, or even taking in a stand-up comedy act will help you stay happy on Valentine’s Day.
5) Adopt a pet from a shelter. Studies show that people with pets live longer, happier and healthier lives. If you’re looking for unconditional love, this is a great way to get it and save a life in the process. Best of all, your pet won’t expect an expensive Valentine’s Day gift.
And remember: the holiday lasts only 24 hours.

Concentration, Thinking and Depression

exams-suck University is tough for lots of reasons without having to struggle with depression.
When most people think of depression, the first things that come to mind are sadness, a loss of enjoyment in life, withdrawal and fear that so often accompany the disorder.
And while these are all very painful, and central, parts of the condition, other symptoms of depression can be at least as damaging, and for students, trouble concentrating can be very detrimental.
The inability to concentrate and/or make decisions is a debilitating aspect of depression. Along with decreased ability to concentrate are other cognitive symptoms of depression which make depression at school so difficult:
• Negative or distorted thinking
• Difficulty concentrating
• Distractibility
• Forgetfulness
• Reduced reaction time
• Memory loss
• Indecisiveness
It is important to take action to resolve depression, which will resolve the symptoms and allow you to continue your studies and of course feel better.

Check out these resources for more information:,_Causes_and_Diagnosis.htm
image from:

DISCLAIMER: All content here should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

Denise, representative of humans of depression;


Sleep and Depression: which comes first: the chicken or the egg?

Experts agree that sleep and depression are linked, but it is unclear how. Poor or not enough sleep can lead to anxiety and depression. And of course, anxiety can make it difficult to fall asleep and to stay asleep. When we don’t sleep well at night, we become tired, sometimes resulting in falling asleep before we’re ready to sleep for the night. Then when it’s time to sleep, we aren’t tired and anxiety and negative thoughts contribute to making it difficult to fall asleep and to stay asleep. And the cycle repeats itself.
We need 7.5- 9 hours of sleep every night. While lack of sleep alone does not cause depression, it is a significant factor and a good indicator that there may be a problem. Whether poor sleep is contributes to depression or depression causes sleep disturbances, it’s agreed that good sleep is important to our health. Understanding the power of sleep and how to combat sleep disturbances will help you stay healthy and can help you fight depression. A really good source of information on sleep and mental health can be found at:
Denise, representative of humans of depression