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Learning from those with depression

Depression is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental illnesses. Mental health research gathered by the Government of Canada finds Canadians are at-risk for major depressive disorder following traumatic or difficult events and from factors including income, discrimination and workplace stress. In 2012, 5.4 per cent of Canadians 15 years and over reported mood disorder symptoms in the previous 12 months, including 4.7 per cent for major depressive disorder (MDD). Further, approximately one in eight adults (12.6 per cent) met criteria for a mood disorder at some point, including 11.3 per cent for MDD. (Government of Canada, 2016)

In 2019, CMHA, Alberta Division designed an MDD research project to collect research and learn directly from individuals living with depression and those caring for them. The MDD Project’s goals are to increase recovery and support options for Albertans affected by mental illness, while standing with these Albertans, within their communities, as they achieve their mental health goals.

Ron Campbell, a member of the advisory committee for this project, worked with the RCMP for 35 years and was diagnosed with PTSD in 2004 and MMD in 2009. Since retiring, Ron has spoken at conferences across Canada and the USA on topics including stress management, workplace wellness and the prevention of operational stress injuries. Ron says about his lived experience of MDD, “It has been a long struggle. Mental illness is complicated, and we use blanket statements [like mental illness] when depression is deserving of a singular focus.”

Research conducted with persons with lived experience (PLE) of MDD allows CMHA to advocate for and facilitate the most appropriate and timely mental health access for Albertans. Persons with lived experience are individuals who have experienced, or are experiencing, a mental illness. This research aims to understand the effects of MDD people’s experience with treatment options. It is also developed in consultation with PLE, like Ron and others living in Canada with MDD, to ensure it is relevant and supports PLE appropriately.

Ron says CMHA’s research is vital to understanding how to best provide support. “When we speak to people living with MDD…,” Ron explains, “we are breaking down depression and trauma to understand these mental illnesses better. We are looking beyond prevalence to what depression looks like and feels like in different people.” Ron says in the steps toward destigmatizing mental illness, it is important to hear from diverse groups about their experiences. People who are struggling, but may not be diagnosed, should understand depression can manifest in different ways. “We want people to say to themselves, ‘Is this mental health conversation something I need to pay attention to? It sounds familiar to my own experiences.’”

The MDD project is comprised of three components: 1. Alberta-wide study; 2. Canada-wide study; 3. Knowledge transfer and advocacy

  1. Alberta-wide study- The MDD project gathers data directly from Albertans impacted by the disorder and explores people’s experiences with different treatment options. CMHA utilizes this information to advocate for and facilitate greater mental health access for Albertans.
  2. Canada-wide study- The MDD Project’s research has expanded across Canada to initiate Canada-wide MDD research collection. The research and data gathered allows CMHA to support colleagues in every province as they work with those impacted by MDD.
  3. Knowledge transfer and advocacy- The Alberta-wide and Canada-wide research informs the development of recovery and support services advocated for, and offered by, CMHA across the country. The most relevant recovery and support materials and services are targeted and distributed to Canadians within their communities and workplaces.

As CMHA continues to learn from those impacted by MDD, Ron is optimistic about what increased MDD research means for Alberta’s mental health. “It’s about bringing awareness, hope and support options. The more understanding, the better, so when we are speaking, we can be more articulate and clearly understood. When people can identify with others’ stories, they will say, ‘That is me, too’ and hopefully follow up and seek support.”

For more information on MDD and the research project, or to participate in the research itself, please visit






Government of Canada. (2016, December 30). What is Depression?. [Webpage]. Retrieved May, 2020, from:

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