First Aid Management: Depression

Fact Checked

Depression is a serious medical disorder involving the brain. It is commonly characterized by constant sadness, loss of interest in activities, energy loss, and suicidal thoughts, among others. Depression is more than feeling “blue” or the sadness over everyday matters. Depression symptoms do not disappear easily. There are intense feelings of sadness and worthlessness that interfere with daily life. Genetic,environmental, psychological and biochemical factors are attributed to the variety of causes.

Eight percent of Canadians will experience a major depression in their lifetime (Canadian Mental Health Association (ND). This does not count the people who will experience bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and other mental disorders that may lead to depression.It is more common in women and typically begins sometime between ages 15 and 30.

Forms of Depression

There are several different forms of depressive disorders than an individual can suffer:

  • Major Depression or Major Depressive Disorder
    • Affects everyday functions that may disable a person
    • May be experienced once only but often occurs multiple times
  • Dysthymic Disorder or Dysthymia
    • Chronic symptoms (lasting for more than two years)
    • Not disabling a person but may prevent normal functioning
    • May experience one or more episodes of major depression during their lifetime
  • Minor Depression
    • Symptoms may last for two weeks or more but not severe enough to meet full criteria for major depression
    • Forms of Minor Depression:
      • Psychotic depression: severe depression accompanied by a form of psychosis (e.g. having delusions or hallucinations)
      • Postpartum depression: occurs in mothers who have recently given birth due to hormonal and physical changes in the body
      • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): onset of depression occurs during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight
  • Bipolar Disorder or Manic-depressive Illness
    • Cycling mood changes from extreme highs to extreme lows

Causes of Depression

                A combination of genetic, environmental, psychological and biochemical factors lead to depression. The most common causes of depression include:

  • Death of a loved one
  • Losing a job or unemployment
  • Breaking up or divorce
  • Discrimination
  • Bullying
  • Victims of physical, emotional or sexual abuse
  • Certain medications such as for hypertension, cancer, seizure, severe pain, etc.
  • Alcohol and drug abuse

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Signs and symptoms may slightly vary in children, teenager, men and women but the commonly present symptoms of depression are the following:

  • A constant sadness or feeling empty
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies or activities
  • Energy loss and fatigue
  • Rapid change in weight – weight gain or weight loss – due to loss of appetite or overeating
  • Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
  • Wanting to stay in bed the whole day
  • Hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feeling of worthlessness and guilt
  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts

Treatment for Depression



Depression cannot be treated with first aid, but there are cases where the first aider has to respond to a victim, or even a friend, with depression. Join in First Aid Courses to learn how to manage individuals with depression. The following precautionary steps and treatment are usually advised in individuals with depression:

  • How to approach someone who may be experiencing depression:
    • It may be better to wait for the person to open up. If they do not initiate a conversation, say something at an appropriate place and suitable time for both to talk.
    • Express your concern and explain that you are willing to help. Encourage the person to talk to you.If they are not comfortable to talk to you, suggest getting professional help.
    • Form a strong support system
    • Do not be hostile or sarcastic.
  • Medications may be prescribed for depression:
    • Antidepressants
    • Tricyclics
    • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • Psychotherapy may sometimes be used to treat depression.


Depression. (ND). National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved September 29, 2013, from

Fast Facts about Mental Illness. (ND). Canadian Mental Health Association. Retrieved September 29, 2013, from

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