The suspected suicide of actor and comedian Robin Williams has opened the conversation on a topic that is far too often relegated to whispers – depression.

Williams’ family and close friends revealed that he was battling “severe depression” leading up to his death on Monday. He also had a long history of substance abuse and had recently entered rehab to address those issues.

But just how widespread is depression and substance abuse, and how can you find help if you’re suffering?

According to a Statistics Canada report, one in 12 Canadians reported suffering from mental health or substance abuse disorders in 2012 and Distress Centres Ontario reports fielding over 240,000 calls in 2012 — with suicide playing a role in 25,000 of those calls.

The first step to getting help, or finding help for a loved one, is being able to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression:

(Courtesy of Centre for Addiction and Mental Health)

The main symptom of depression is a sad, despairing mood that:

• is present most days and lasts most of the day
• lasts for more than two weeks
• impairs the person’s performance at work, at school or in social relationships.

Other symptoms of depression include:

• changes in appetite and weight
• sleep problems
• loss of interest in work, hobbies, people or sex
• withdrawal from family members and friends
• feeling useless, hopeless, excessively guilty, pessimistic or having low self-esteem
• agitation or feeling slowed down
• irritability
• fatigue
• trouble concentrating, remembering and making decision
• crying easily, or feeling like crying but being not able to
• thoughts of suicide (which should always be taken seriously)
• a loss of touch with reality, hearing voices (hallucinations) or having strange ideas (delusions).

Types of depression:

• Seasonal affective disorder: This type of depression is usually affected by the weather and time of the year.
• Postpartum depression: This occurs in women, following the birth of a child. About 13 per cent of women will experience this type of depression.
• Depression with psychosis: In some cases, depression may become so severe that a person loses touch with reality and experiences hallucinations (hearing voices or seeing people or objects that are not really there) or delusions (beliefs that have no basis in reality).
• Dysthymia: This is a chronically low mood with moderate symptoms of depression.

Find Help:

Treatment at CAMH
Support for families and friends
Ontario mental health helpline

Mental Health Resources in Canada: (Courtesy Ontario Mental Health helpline)

Mental Health Self-Help Groups: