Mental Health: How to recognize depression and what to do about it

By Dr. Yvette Lu.

This week is Canadian Mental Health Week and it’s the perfect opportunity to talk about mental health and mental illness. Talking about mental illness normalizes and reduces shame around it, making it more likely that people will seek help if they experience symptoms.

Check out my video from Breakfast Television on Mental Health. In it, we discuss the signs of depression, what to do about it, why you need to seek help, and resources in BC (other provinces and areas should have similar resources). I will also discuss this information in more detail below.

This year, the theme of Mental Health Week is #GetLoud! During mental health week, we encourage people to reflect on their attitudes towards mental health. It’s important to reduce discrimination and stigma so that people don’t feel shame about mental illness and don’t wait to seek help.

People with mental health issues often feel like they need to suffer silently. Part of the illness is that you feel like your voice and feelings are not important, so if you have mental illness, find someone you feel safe talking to and share how you feel. If someone opens up to you about their feelings and mental health, do your best to listen without judgment and help in whatever way you can.

Most people know that symptoms of depression include feeling sad or having a low mood. However, there are other symptoms that you may not be aware of that can also be signs of depression. These include:

    • anhedonia – no interest or pleasure in doing things you usually like to do
    • irritability and anger
    • poor sleep or sleeping too much
    • poor appetite or overeating, weight gain or weight loss
    • fatigue or low energy
    • feelings of guilt, that you are a failure or that you have let yourself or others down
    • poor concentration or attention
    • feeling really restless or, the opposite, feeling sluggish and slow
    • feeling very sensitive to rejection, to the point that it affects relationships

If you notice these symptoms, you should seek help. You can talk to your family doctor, who can connect you to resources and services in the community, and who can make sure your symptoms aren’t caused by another medical condition, like thyroid disease. You can also contact your local mental health center if you don’t have a doctor. It’s best to seek help early as mental illness is easier to treat when it’s caught early. Parents, I recommend looking for these symptoms in your children and teens as well.

There are many online and community resources available. Many of them are free and don’t require a doctor’s referral:

      • Bounce back: a free, evidence based program for adults and youth who are experiencing mild to moderate depression/anxiety, low mood, or stress. You can do the course online or through a telephone coaching program. It’s available in English, French, Cantonese or Punjabi. The telephone coaching version of the course requires a referral from your family doctor.
      • Confident Parents, Thriving Kids: A family focused, telephone based service for parents and caregivers that helps reduce mild to moderate behavioural challenges and promotes healthy child development in children ages 3-12. The course requires a referral from your family doctor.
      • Living Life to the Full: A mental health promotion course designed to help people deal with low mood, anxiety, stress, and everyday life challenges.
      • MindShift App: A free app from AnxietyBC to help cope with anxiety, originally developed for teens and young adults. I recommend it to all ages.
      • BC Crisis Center: A free Mental Health Support Line: 310-6789 in BC (no area code). You can call for information on local services or if you need emotional support. Workers have advanced training in mental health issues and services. They also have a suicide hotline 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) and a Seniors Distress Line: 604-872-1234. As well, an online chat is available for youth and adults.
      • Kelty Mental Health: Provides peer support to children, youth and their families, and to people with eating disorders.
      • Here to Help BC: An online resource to help people manage mental health and substance use problems.

These are only a few of the resources available online. Please check out the sites listed above for more info.

For more info about mental health week, visit

On another note, a show about caregivers that I made is currently in a competition for funding! If we win, we can make five more episodes! Please vote for “Who Cares with Dr Yvette Lu” at

Thank you!!