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The Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) Projectcollected data directly from individuals impacted by MDD and explored people’s experiences with different treatment options. The MDD Project also sought to understand better the impacts of MDD on personal relationships and workplace experiences. This research will inform the development of relevant Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) support services offered by CMHA across Canada.
Major depressive disorder is one of three main types of depression. This type of depression is defined as when a person’s depression is unresolved after using two or more antidepressant agents.
Nearly 1,000 Canadians responded to the survey. The majority of respondents live in Alberta and Ontario. Survey respondents were most often female and 51 years of age or older diagnosed with clinical depression or MDD. They’ve also been living with depression for 10 years or more. Respondents are not just living with depression –they have other medical conditions like anxiety, chronic pain, obesity and hypertension.
People living with depression most often feel tired, down, or have difficulty sleeping. They also report feeling disconnected from people or with experiences. About two-thirds of respondents report having suicide ideation.
Most people living with depression rely on prescription medication as the primary way to cope with their symptoms. Nearly half of the respondents most commonly reported using Bupropion and Venlafaxine. Reliance on help from family or friends and access to community-based programming and resources (including online resources) were also important ways to manage depressive symptoms.
The primary support for people living with MDD is professional help, and it is considered the most effective support. Professional services are accessed by respondents between one to four times per month, and respondents feel supported most of the time. Simultaneously, there are gaps in care that can limit the effectiveness or intended impact for people living with MDD. It is essential that persons living with MDD access adequately trained health professionals. It is crucial that health professionals understand how to address complex needs, including underlying factors like income, employment and availability of social support. Without adequate support, people living with MDD have reported visiting the Emergency Department when experiencing heightened depressive symptoms, with most emergency visits leading to hospital admission.
Relationships are greatly affected for those living with MDD. This includes relationships with partners, family and friends. Living with MDD makes it challenging to connect with others. Often, stigma or a lack of understanding about the realities of living with MDD limit a person’s ability to have supportive and meaningful relationships.
Most people living with MDD are employed. Respondents were mixed on whether or not they disclose a depression diagnosis or experience in their workplace. Stigma in the workplace, and society at large, makes it difficult to feel supported in the workplace. Several persons living with MDD suggested that if they disclosed their experience with depression, this would ultimately limit their ability to pursue their career goals. While having education and resources may be useful in the work environment, supportive and understanding colleagues and management are most important. Stigma and concerns about job security have limited this type of support in the workplace.
The 2020-21 COVID-19 pandemic appears to have worsened depression symptoms. Many respondents have reported increased anxiety, isolation, panic attacks, maladjusted sleep routines and suicide ideation. There is a lack of access and availability to the mental health services they relied upon before the pandemic restrictions. These restrictions impact the way services are delivered (i.e., online, by phone), the extent to which they are available and the extent to which they effectively meet the needs of people living with MDD.