Depression is an illness. Let’s manage it that way

More than ever, it’s important to recognize depression and know how to seek help for it.

As Canadians, we spend a lot of our time talking about and focusing on physical health conditions but have not treated mental health conditions the same way. It is time that we started to talk about and manage depression as an illness.

COVID-19 has exacerbated an already dire situation in Canada. The worldwide pandemic has made a significant impact o the world’s health, and Express Scripts Canada research reveals it has also made a significant impact on our mental health.

Read: COVID-19 and mental health: A growing threat to Canadians

An online survey conducted by Statistics Canada found that 52% of Canadians reported their mental health was worsening. Express Scripts Canada data analysis shows that Canadians are increasingly turning to prescription drugs for relief from mental health conditions.

In fact, 23% more people between the ages of 19 and 35 are making claims for medications typically used to treat depression. And, claims increased among males and females alike with a 24% increase in the number of females making claims and a 21% increase in males making claims. Across Canada, there was an average increase of 11% in people making claims for antidepressants between January and June 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. More than ever, support for people dealing with mental health issues is required.

What is depression

Depression is an illness that may cause you to feel sad, lose interest in activities that you previously enjoyed, withdraw from others or have little energy. It can also cause people to feel hopeless about the future and even think about suicide.

Some people with depression may try to hide the signs from others, or they may not even realize that they have depression. Hiding depression is sometimes called “smiling depression”, as people may put on a happy face and show a positive attitude around others. Depression isn’t caused by personal weakness and is not a character flaw. When you have depression, there may be problems with activity levels in your brain or chemicals in your brain may be out of balance. Some experts believe that a combination of family history and stressful life events like a pandemic may cause depression.

What are the symptoms
The symptoms of depression may be hard to notice at first. They vary among people, and you may confuse them with just feeling “off” or with another health problem. The two most common symptoms of depression are feeling sad or hopeless for a prolonged time and losing interest in or not being happy about the daily activities that used to give you pleasure.

If you think you might be depressed, take a short quiz to check your symptoms:

Interactive Tool: Are You Depressed?

If you think you may be depressed, tell your health care professional.

Read: How pharmacists can help patients with depression


Depression is an illness and should be treated by medical professionals. Counselling, psychotherapy and antidepressant medications can all be used to treat depression. Lifestyle changes, such as more exercise might also help. Work with your health care team to find the best treatment for you. It might take a few tries and it can take several weeks for the medication and therapy to start working, but hang in there. Try to be patient and keep following the treatment plan set out for you.

It’s also important to become self-aware and educate oneself about depression. Everyone who thinks they may have depression should learn as much as they can about this illness. There are many resources available for people to learn more about this condition, including the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

Read: You are your best health advocate

For people with depression, pharmacists can be an invaluable first line of support, education and information. As accessible health professionals, they are often available during hours and locations when others are not. In the case of our Express Scripts Canada Pharmacy, for example, a pharmacist is always available to members by telephone 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so it’s easy to reach out from the convenience, comfort and privacy of your home.

Remember that depression is an illness experienced by many people. Depression can be treated, so if you or someone you know seems depressed, don’t delay – take action.