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Looking after your mental health

What is depression?

On this page we explain what depression is and what can cause it. You can also read more about ways to manage depression and possible treatments available for depression.

On this page:

What is depression?

Depression is a low mood that lasts for weeks or months and affects your everyday life. In its mildest form, depression can mean being in low spirits. It doesn’t stop you leading your normal life, but makes everything harder to do and seem less worthwhile. At its most severe, people might feel suicidal.

If you need help for a mental health crisis or emergency, you should seek immediate advice. Help and support is available right now.

There are helplines you can call, or, if you don’t want to talk to someone on the phone, text lines you can message. The NHS website has a page on help for suicidal thoughts, which includes a list of places you can get immediate help.

If you or a loved one needs immediate help, call 999 or visit your local A&E. A mental health emergency should be taken as seriously as a physical one. You will not be wasting anyone’s time.

What causes depression?

Depression can be caused by:

  • long-term health problems, such as living with a lung condition
  • difficult things that have happened in the past
  • difficult events such as losing your job, the end of a relationship, bereavement, or family problems
  • side effects of medication
  • alcohol or recreational drugs.

What causes depressions varies from person to person, and sometimes a variety of reasons can cause depression. Or you might become depressed without any obvious reason.

It’s common to experience symptoms of depression when living with a long-term lung condition. Having a long-term lung condition can be difficult to cope with. You might be feeling low about missing out on things you used to be able to do, or frustrated at experiencing flare-ups of your condition or having treatment in hospital. And if someone already has depression, having a long-term lung condition may make their depression worse.

I have suffered from depression in the past related to divorce. Hopelessness, debilitating grief and sadness are my main memories of an awful time.

When I knew I was recovering, it felt like the sun had come out again after a very dark two years. I recovered completely and got back to work. I’ve not experienced depression since and am not subject to low mood nowadays.


When does a low mood become depression?

We all have times when we feel sad, have a low mood, or feel miserable about life. But if these feelings don’t go away and are interfering with your life, it could be a sign you’re experiencing depression.

When should I seek help for depression?

If you think you may be depressed it’s important to get help from a GP or health care professional.

Don’t delay getting help. The sooner you see a doctor, the sooner you’ll be on your way to recovery to feeling better.

If you are feeling down and are not sure who to turn to, you can always give our helpline a call. The friendly and supportive team will be able to offer advice and lend a caring ear. Call them on 0300 222 5800, Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm.

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Download our mental health information (PDF, 474KB)

We use your comments to improve our information. We cannot reply to comments left on this form. If you have health concerns or need clinical advice, call our helpline on 03000 030 555 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.