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HealthInfo Aoraki South Canterbury

Overview of depression


Depression is the most common mental health problem in New Zealand. One in five people experience depression at some stage in their life.

Depression is less common in tamariki (children), though it can happen in rangatahi (young people) after puberty. It can go away or come back at any stage of adult life.

Some people are more prone to depression than others. Often, this depends on factors beyond your control, such as having a family history of depression or some trauma in your life. Long-term physical illness or working in stressful occupations like farming can also have a effect.

Depression is different from day-to-day sadness. It's normal to feel sad sometimes in response to hard situations in life. Depression is when sadness takes over and doesn't go away.

Depression can be a serious illness. You might find it hard to do everyday things like going to work or seeing friends. You might stop wanting to do things you usually enjoy. A small number of depressed people consider or attempt suicide.

You can read about the symptoms of depression. You may also like to try this online test for depression.


At times, suicide might seem like a solution to depression. If you or a friend is considering acting on suicidal thoughts and needs help, phone the Depression Helpline on 0800‑111‑757 or txt 4202 (available 24/7), or phone Lifeline 0800‑543‑354 (available 24/7). Or you can contact your local Mental Health Crisis Team (TACT) on 0800‑277‑997.

Treating depression

Depression should be dealt with as soon as possible, as if it's left alone, it could get worse and even lead to self-harm or suicide. It helps to understand what causes it, so you can find ways to get through. Most people benefit from a combination of self-care and medical or psychological treatment.

Your general practice team is a good place to start if you think you or someone you love might have depression.

You might have to try a range of things before you start feeling better. Some things you'll be able to do for yourself, but you might need some extra help from your general practice team, therapists or other health professionals.

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On the next page: Self-care for depression

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed May 2023.


See also:

Depression in older people

Depression in teens & young adults

Getting help for a mental health issue


Page reference: 496629

Review key: HIDEP-48681