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What causes depression?

As a young person you are likely to have a whole range of emotional experiences, which can feel really intense. When you can’t lift out of these low feelings and you feel low almost all day and nearly every day and it is getting in the way of you living your life and how you want to live it, then this is sometimes referred to as “depression”.

What causes depression?

Past or recent life events, the way you cope with stress, how you think and behave, genetics, personality and biology have all been identified as playing a part in feeling depressed.

Often depression is caused by someone going through a stressful event or several events one after another.

Events commonly linked to depression include:

  • Losses – like a death of someone close, a relationship break up, friends or family moving away, moving house or school, parents separating and siblings moving out.

  • Relationship problems – like conflict in your relationships, feeling dissatisfied with your partner

  • Abuse and violence – witnessing abuse and violence in your past, or currently in your home, family or relationship.

  • Isolation and loneliness/lack of social support or connection with others

  • Things going wrong at school – too much stress, failing, being suspended or expelled, being bullied, problems with teachers.

  • Illness – your own or someone elses

  • Family problems – not having enough food, safety or comfort at home, living in a dangerous neighbourhood, parent’s who have problems with their own mental health, alcohol or drugs.

  • A traumatic event – like a car accident or burglary.

Genetics, biology and personality type also have links to depression.

Having a family history of depression is thought to increase your chances of experiencing depression. Having a personality type where you are worried lots, having a low self-esteem or patterns of thinking and coping in unhelpful ways (like drinking) might also make some people more likely to experience depression.

If you have been depressed in the past, you might be more likely to become depressed again in times of stress, after a full-on event or perhaps for what seems like no reason at all. The important thing is to look out for the early warning signs, and then to take action and reach out for support as early as possible.

If you are depressed it is easy to feel like no one else understands or has experienced the same thing, but the truth is, lots of people get depressed. It doesn’t mean you are crazy. You aren’t going to be depressed forever. You don’t need to face it alone.


Signs of depression

Physical reactions

  • Not wanting to eat or over-eating
  • Constantly tired
  • Tearfulness
  • Over sleeping or trouble sleeping
  • Restlessness or moving slower than usual
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Large weight gain or loss

Thoughts and feelings

“I can't get interested or excited in anything”
“I feel sad nearly all day and everyday”
“Every day is an “off” day”
“The stuff I used to enjoy I can't be bothered with now”
“I can’t feel better”
“I’m so shamed out”
“I feel so guilty”
“I deserve this pain”
“I feel nothing anymore... I’m numb”
“I’m not worth anything”
“There’s no hope – nothing is going to get better”
“Just leave me alone”

“No one likes me”
“I might as well be dead”
“What’s the point in even trying”
“I can’t concentrate or make decisions easily”


How to cope with depression

  • Give yourself chill-out time. Check out our stress page for some chill out strategies that can help.
  • Stay in touch. It’s important to keep seeing your mates and hanging out. Even if you may not feel like it at first, chances are that after an hour of hanging out, you might feel better that you did.
  • Go back to basics. Focus on getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and doing some exercise. Focus on getting a stable routine in place. Try getting up at the same time every day, having regular meal times, and (if you don’t have school, study or work) planning some activities to do – even if they are just activities to do at home – nothing like a good spring clean for a new start!
  • Take time to express yourself. Allow yourself everyday a bit of time to be alone in a safe space where you can express your feelings. Listen to music, draw, write a letter or keep a diary. Afterwards, move out of that space, maybe have a shower or make something to eat and then do something else.
  • Stay healthy. Even though drugs and alcohol might seem like a way to numb your feelings or get on a happier buzz, depression and substances do not mix well! Chances are you’ll feel pretty bad and even worse the next day.
  • Get support. Check out our ‘Getting Help’ section for more info on what support options are out there!

If you are having thoughts of killing yourself, click here for more info.

If you are worried about a friend, check out our “Supporting Friends” section! 



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