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.


Prevention is Better than Cure

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It is common to check the mirror before going out, to make sure we look good. It is common to watch what we eat, to make sure our body remains healthy. But it is not common to take the time, to make sure that our mood is on the right track. Depression, as some describe it, may feel like a well of darkness. It is easier to stay away rather than slipping into it. So why don’t we all watch out for depression and try to prevent it? Is that possible?

Yes, we can always try. To prevent depression is to take care of ourselves holistically, not just our exterior.

Taking care of our bodies by eating healthy and exercising could positively affect our mood, as we learned in our last blog. Getting enough sleep is one of the important basic steps to many illnesses prevention not just depression. We can also take care of our mood by keeping our loved ones close. Finding our passions to serve as an ‘outlet’ to our stress and being thankful for what we have may also protect us from depression. We could always try avoiding blaming ourselves and focusing on having a positive attitude. It is also beneficial to have a balanced routine, to fill our time with meaningful activities whether it is work, social engagement, or fun. Getting counselling if we feel overwhelmed during times of grief, stress or low mood is another depression prevention tool.

It may seem tedious, taking care of our mood, but it is an essential step to ensure our mental well being. It may be hard at first, but making it a habit will lead to an easier sustainable good mood.

Depression is a serious illness, which we should not take lightly. It is not just being sad or lonely; it is a complex illness involving symptoms that affect our general physical and social well being, not only mental. Thus, it is imperative to learn about and be aware of depression because by reading more about it and educating ourselves, we make it easier to prevent and recognize.

Taking care of YOURSELF is important, we all owe it to ourselves!

~ Faten B., Humans of Depression Representative

#LetsTalkD #preventioniswellness #boosturmood

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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

Depression among students is no joke: Madison Holleran

One of the precipitating causes of depression is a traumatic life event. For many university and college students, it has to do with falling below expectation, especially for high achievers.


Madison Holleran was your typical pretty, smart, star athelete that attended University of Pensylvannia, and from the outside everything seemed like it was going great, but then came the news of her suicide on Friday, January 17th. And what is crazy about this is that she was just one in 5 Penn student to commit suicide in the past six months.1

In high school, Madison racked up straight As, ran track and competed in two national soccer championships. But first semester at UPenn was tough for Madison, as she had a 3.5 GPA. Madison’s friend, Hung stated that it might have been a combination of leaving home, attending college, and pressures from social media of the need to ALWAYS be happy.

As Steve Volk of Philadephia Magazine explained “These overscheduled kids strive for perfection, spending their adolescence collecting medals, first-place finishes and congratulatory handshakes. But when they arrive at Locust Walk, they are suddenly surrounded by thousands of peers who were also the smartest and best. They experience failure, perhaps for the first time in their lives. They feel like they are letting down their families. And just as they are beginning to gather power in the world, they might be at their most vulnerable.”1

Depression among university and college students is no joke. Let’s diminish the stigma on depression and suicide and open up the conversation.

~Mei Wen, Humans of Depression Representative

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  1. Steve Volk. Philadephia. “Tragedy of Madison Holleran and Suicides at Penn” Retrieved from

So… What causes depression anyway?

This is a question that is commonly asked, and is one that is often times hardest to answer. Admittedly, there are still a lot of gaps in medical knowledge that needs to be covered. According to Center of Addiction and Mental Health, there are primarily four main causes to depression1:

  • genetic factors
  • psychological vulnerability
  • life events
  • biological factors

Genetic factors:

Studies regarding twins have shown that there is a higher chance for those with family history of depression to also develop depression. As to the exact gene mutation, there is currently no known genes that are responsible for depression unlike in other diseases i.e. BRCA1 gene in breast cancer.

Psychological vulnerability:

Personality style and the way people think about and cope with problems can also contribute to depression.

Life events:

Experiencing prolonged difficult situations can increase the chance of someone developing depression. This is often the case in the context of post-secondary education i.e. consistently falling below own standards, getting poor grades, unable to gain entrance into professional school or getting employed.

Biological factors:

Because of evidence showing antidepressant medication which changes the balance of neurochemicals such as serotonin, there is belief that having hormonal or chemical imbalances in the brain may contribute to development of depression. It is so far unclear why certain individuals may have this imbalance while others do not.

For young adults under age of 25, their brains are not fully developed particularly in regions of impulsivity and emotional regulation. 2

~Mei Wen, Humans of Depression Representative

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  1. Depression: Overview. Retrieved from

  1. Steve Volk. Philadephia. “Tragedy of Madison Holleran and Suicides at Penn” Retrieved from

Myths About Depression

There are several myths about depression. To stop the stigma associated with depression lets start my recognizing some of them:

Myth: Fact

  1. Depression only affects women.

Depression affects all ages and gender. “For 10–15% of men and 15–25% of women, a depressed mood can persist and become a significant mental health problem, called clinical or major depression” 2.

  1. Depression is a normal part of life.

Sadness is a normal part of life. A depressive state lasting longer than two weeks that interferes with daily activity is a mental condition 1.

  1. People with depression are just lazy.

No one chooses to be depressed. Depression hinders social and functional activities.

  1. An episode of depression can only occur once.

Every individual is unique. Some people have one acute episode, others have several episodes or occurrence can be over a lifetime 1. Depression can be treated and managed, people do recover.

  1. If you depressed the only treatment are antidepressants.

Depression is individualistic. Treatment and management regimen are specific to each individual. Some treatment options include psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy. Learn more about depression treatment in future blogs.

Depression affects people globally. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 350 million people live with depression 3. Depression commonly affects more women than men 3. Several factors contribute to depression. Yet, depression is treatable and manageable. Continue to expand your knowledge, spread awareness, and stop the stigma. Humans of Depression welcome you back next week for continued learning and promotion on depression. Check out the link below:

~Vanessa, Humans of Depression Representative

Remember to follow Humans of Depression on the following platforms and support #LetsTalkD:


  1. CAMH (n.d.). Mental Health and Addictions 101. Retrieved from


  1. Portico (n.d). Depression: overview. Retrieved


  1. WHO (2012). Depression, a hidden burden. Retrieved from


The Identity of a Postsecondary Student

Going to or returning to university or college is exciting, frightening and a new beginning. Many students move to new cities, several may live on residence or in student housing, some have meal plans, some may cook for themselves, others work, and have family obligations. Not to forget our responsibilities as student from assignments to reading. Many students would agree that although you may try to plan out your semester, some events are just unexpected. Time can move truly slow or extremely fast and in joggling your student responsibilities with daily life, stress can accumulate. Many students experience feelings of discouragement, loss of interest, worthlessness, anxious, sad, and sleep disturbance. If these feelings last for weeks or interfere with your daily life it may be depression. Students are resilient. We can adapt to change, multitask, and cope under pressure but sometimes we need help and mentoring. Attaining mental and physical wellness are subjective health states to each individual. Everyone’s health journey is unique, be sensitive to others, and help stop the stigma on depression.

Check out inspiring link: 

Start by understanding yourself. What is your student identity? The My Health, My Life Framework is a tool that involves self-reflection. Start by drawing an “X” or circle on areas that may be affecting your health. Ask yourself why or why not. Click the following link to access the framework.

~Vanessa, Humans of Depression Representative

Remember to follow Humans of Depression on the following platforms and support #LetsTalkD:

What is Depression?

Welcome viewers! Humans of Depression is media campaign that targets health promotion on depression. A team of six Master of Public Health students will be blogging weekly over the next two months to encourage self autonomy to seek help, create open dialogue, promote resources, and reduce the stigma associated with depression. Lets discuss. #stompthestigma #allabouttheD #livingwithdepression = #LD #Defeatingdepression = #DD

Everyone goes through moods. ‘The blues’ is a mood we all experience from time to time but when it is persistent, it is often overlooked. It may very well be depression that you are experiencing. Depression impacts ones’ mental health and can debilitate daily functioning.

What is depression?

Depression is a mood disorder with low mood, or a maladaptive response to stress that can impair one mentally and physically 3. Mood disorders that include depressive states are major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, dysthymic disorder, perinatal depression, and seasonal affective disorder. Major depressive disorder (also referred to as clinical depression or unipolar depression) involves one or more depressive episode occurring at for at least two week 4. The depressive episode is a continuous low mood and/ or marked with lost of interest in activities. “Of those who have had a single major depressive episode, 50%-60% may develop a second one” 1. Major depressive disorder is disabling because of cognitive symptoms, increases risk for suicide, and impacts ones quality of life 3. Bipolar disorder consists of mania and depression that can occur for days, weeks, or months 4. These mood swings can cycle and range from elation to hopelessness. Dysthymic disorder is a chronic depressive mood most days with some symptom free periods but last at least two years 4. Prenatal depression is depression affects maternal and postnatal mothers 4. Seasonal affective disorder is depression that is affected by change in weather and time within the year 2. Depression can impose a burden on ones activities of daily living, impacting social interaction and functioning at work or school. Depression at school and work can influence ones absenteeism and presenteeism 3. Depression is a significant public health issue. The World Health Organization estimated major depressive disorder to be the single largest contributor to disease burden among ages 15 to 59 years old Canadians 5.

If you are curious and have questions about depression access resources within your school and the community. Check out the following link, sponsored by Centre for Addiction and Mental Health with psychiatrist, Dr. Goldbloom.

~Vanessa, Humans of Depression Representative

Remember to follow Humans of Depression on the following platforms and support #LetsTalkD:


  1. All About Self Help (2013). Major depressive disorder. Retrieved from

  1. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (2012). Depression. Retrieved from


  1. Patten, S. et. al (2009). Canadian network for mood and anxiety treatments (CANMAT)

clinical guidelines for the management of major depressive disorder in adults. I.

classification, burden and principles of management. Journal of Affective Disorders,

117(Suppl. 1). S44–53. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2009.06.039

  1. Public Health Agency of Canada (2011). Chapter 3 Mood disorders. Retrieved from

  1. Public Health Agency of Canada (2011). The chief public health officer’s report on the state of

public health in Canada, 2011: chapter 3 the health and well-being of Canadian youth and

young adults. Retrieved from



We are a team of 6 diverse Master of Public Health students, at Western University. Our initiative is a social media campaign about depression, targeted at college and university students. We are passionate about promoting health, helping others, and changing lives for the better, one step at a time.

Humans of Depression is dedicated to educating, raising awareness, and breaking the stigma surrounding depression. It is our belief that identification and intervention can help students get the help they need and empower them to lead healthy productive lives.

Our mission is to promote early prevention, recognition, and management of depression among students, in order to have open dialogues between friends, families, and healthcare professionals towards better management of depression.

A quick fact to reflect on is that ‘During the Middle Ages, mentally ill people were seen to be under the influence of the devil or other evil spirits’

Where do you think we stand today? Do we all really know what is depression? Why it happens? Is it sadness or taking one’s life or somewhere in between? Can we truly overcome it?

They are all valid questions which we promise to address and reflect upon with you, throughout our campaign.

So stay tuned because coming up in our next blog, Monday January 26th, we will try to understand together ‘what is depression?’

Until then remember that “Everyday is a new beginning”.

Humans of Depression


Twitter: @HumansofD