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Staff Counselling Centre


What is depression?

Depression is a general term that describes a range of experiences, including a persistent low mood and a severe decline in how one feels about themselves and their life.  Depression affects people in different ways it can occur at any stage throughout life, including childhood, and can cause a wide range of symptoms from mild to more severe, including:

  • Feeling hopeless, helpless or worthless.
  • Feeling tearful.
  • Feeling irritable with self or others.
  • Sleep disturbance.
  • Feeling tired all the time.
  • Change in appetite (eating more or less hungry)
  • Finding it hard to focus.
  • Withdrawing from friends and activities
  • Feeling apathetic, ‘can’t be bothered’.
  • Adopting unhelpful coping strategies e.g. alcohol, drugs.
  • Suicidal thoughts or feelings of not wanting to be here.
  • Reduced sex drive.

 What causes depression?

Everyone experiences low mood at different times in life, but if the experience persists (for weeks or months rather than a few days) and is having a negative impact in key areas of a person’s life such as relationships, work life, home life, or they are having regular feelings of hopelessness and despair, and they are struggling to cope with everyday routines and tasks, this person may be depressed.

 The causes of depression are varied, but may be a reaction to a major life event or change, such as loss, illness, trauma and abuse, but many people do not have a clear sense of why they feel depressed.

Some reasons a person might get depressed:

  • Certain medications can affect mood
  • Conflict - historical or present
  • Loss of a loved one
  • The end of a relationship
  • Genetics – a family history of depression may increase the possibility
  • Life transitions – e.g. new job, re-locating, children leaving home
  • Financial pressures
  • Substance misuse
  • Unhealthy relationships
  • Isolation, loneliness
  • Perfectionism, setting unrealistic goals, fear of failure


Supporting yourself


If you have a friend or someone you trust, talk to them about how you are feeling. It may help you to feel less isolated and they may be pleased to have the opportunity to help.


You may find that you have stopped doing some of the things that used to make you feel good about yourself, try to re-engage with some of them.


Keep to a daily routine based around self-care and basic needs, including regular meal times and maintaining a regular sleep routine - even when your sleep is disrupted.


Exercise is an effective way of regulating mood. A gentle daily walk is a good starting point when your motivation is low.

Manage your expectations of yourself

it can be easy to expect too much of yourself when you are low, and then to feel critical of yourself when you do not meet your goals.  Try to approach your expectations of yourself with an attitude of flexibility and forgiveness.

 If you find yourself procrastinating, take a break and walk away from where you are working.

Try to tackle one task at a time, and if necessary, break that task down into smaller steps.

Depression is known to affect concentration, so don’t try and push through - do what you can when you feel able to work/study.


How to help someone who is feeling depressed

If you think a friend, or someone you know may be suffering from depression, there are some things that you can do to help. They might need professional help and it is useful to hold in mind that you are not solely responsible for helping them to feel better.


When a person with depression is focused on negative thoughts and feelings, try to listen and if you can, help them to look at things in a different way or from a range of perspectives.


Try to encourage the person you are supporting to keep up or re-engage with some of the activities they enjoy, and feel are currently manageable.


Depression can be eased by medication and professional support. You can help by encouraging a person with depression to speak with their GP or a professional support person such as a counsellor.


It might be helpful if you spend some time learning about depression, including symptoms, causes and treatments on your own.  This may spare the person you are helping, to repeatedly explain what they are experiencing.

Offer help

Helping a person with depression may appreciate help with their everyday tasks e.g. shopping, laundry etc.

Extend flexible invitations

People living with depression may find it hard to make plans and connect with others.

Be patient

Coping with depression often involves taking one step forward, and two steps back.

Stay in touch

Most of us need to know someone still cares about us especially when we are struggling with life.


If you are supporting a person with depression, take care of yourself too – know your limitations and stay connected to your own support networks.


Suicidal Ideation

If you are depressed and wanting to harm yourself, or if you are having thoughts about suicide, it is important speak to someone who can help you. Initially, you may prefer to speak to someone you know. A work colleague, line manager or a wellbeing advocate will put you in touch with services that offer specialist help.

If your friend or someone you know is talking about suicide, encourage them to see their GP or a mental health specialist. If this is not possible, speak to someone who can intervene, perhaps someone in your department, or a wellbeing advocate.


Seeking further help

Sometimes depression can lift quickly, particularly if the cause is resolved. However, depression can last for weeks or months at a time. Sometimes, self-help, and practical and emotional support from friends and family will be sufficient. Sometimes a person who is depressed might be anxious about worrying others, or talking with them about personal issues. They might feel too low to motivate themselves to take the first steps to access support.

If your GP diagnoses you with moderate to severe depression they may recommend and prescribe antidepressants that help in the production of serotonin.  The chemical serotonin plays a key role in body functions that include: mood and sleep. 


Where to access support

If you feel that you are at a crisis point you can call your GP, call NHS111 (option 2) to speak with a mental health professional or dial 999 for the emergency services.


Cambridge University Staff Counselling Centre 

Complete a self-referral form online


Talk to your GP, who can discuss the support options available to you.


Consider making an appointment with Occupational Health


Qwell – online mental health support platform



Tel: 116 123


Staff Counselling Centre: 



Tel:                     01223 762160