Let’s talk about depression

Do you ever find yourself struggling to carry out simple everyday tasks? For some, it may just be “one of those days”. Yet, for many others, it can be a sign of depression, a common mental illness that can cause real mental anguish, even leading to devastating consequences for relationships with family and friends.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has predicted that by 2030, depression will be the leading cause of disease burden globally1. In Australia, 20 per cent of adults are either directly or indirectly affected by depression during their lifetime2. While the risk of becoming depressed is increased by poverty, unemployment, and alcohol and drug use, depression can affect anyone - men and women from all backgrounds, in all professions, and at all stages of life. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide. In 2015, Australia recorded 3,027 deaths by suicide, the highest level for the last 10 years2. That is one person every three hours, every single day.

But, depression is a treatable condition. While two-thirds of depressed people don’t seek help, studies show that 50 per cent of people with depression will recover within the first six months following treatment1,3. This year’s World Health Day takes place this Friday, 7 April 2017, and will focus on depression and breaking down the barriers that prevent people from seeking the help that they may need.

The Monash Psychology Centre (MPC) in the Monash Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neurosciences (MICCN) is one of Australia’s leading clinical psychological centres with specialist clinics providing low-cost services to the community. Our experts combine cutting-edge research with clinical experience to develop and enhance treatment protocols for people with depression.

The “gold-standard” psychological intervention for clinical depression is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT works by identifying the unhelpful thought patterns that contribute to anxiety and depression, and developing positive coping strategies to focus on problem-solving instead of unproductive worries. CBT is the treatment of choice for many clinical psychologists worldwide; however, the standard treatment requires patients to be committed to the treatment process with regular sessions. Some people with depression may find it difficult to be engaged fully in the treatment process, leading to high drop-out rates.

Dr Nikolaos Kazantzis, Director of the Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) Research Unit and Associate Professor in Clinical Psychology at MICCN, is a world-renowned specialist in CBT and CBT training for clinical psychologists. Dr Kanzantzis has led the research effort to develop a treatment improvement protocol to maximise patient engagement, to enable the effective delivery of CBT in “real-world” community settings. Working with him is Professor Peter Norton, one of two developers of the transdiagnostic treatment model, a new, ground-breaking approach to the treatment of depression and other emotional disorders. The innovative therapy treatments are offered at the Monash FEAR Clinic within the MPC, a clinic dedicated to helping people with anxiety, depression, and related emotional disorders.

Studies have found that people with depression often do not sleep well and vice versa; those who suffer from sleep disorders have a higher risk of depression4. The Monash Healthy Sleep Clinic specialises in evidence-based and state-of-the-art treatment for insomnia and body clock disorders. Professor Sean Drummond, MICCN’s Professor of Clinical Neuroscience and Chair of the World Sleep Foundation, is developing a CBT treatment programme for insomnia. And, as depression can coincide with major life changes, including pregnancy and child birth, Dr Bei Bei is conducting research to understand the impact of sleep on new mothers. The study will develop strategies to help new mothers manage the different changes and challenges associated with sleep at various points during and after pregnancy.

Stroke and traumatic brain injury (TBI) can have a significant impact on a person’s cognitive functions, causing emotional difficulties, depression, and anxiety. Professor Jennie Ponsford, MICCN’s Professor of Neuropsychology and Director of the Monash-Epworth Rehabilitation Research Centre, is leading Australia’s largest study into the impact of TBI on patients and their families over long periods of time after injury. Together with her colleagues, Professor Ponsford has developed more effective and efficient rehabilitation programmes for people with TBI. The services are offered through the Neurorehabilitation Clinic and the Concussion Clinic at the MPC.

In May 2017, the MPC will open the Optimal Health Clinic, a new research clinic that will stand at the forefront of effective treatment delivery in helping adults across a range of mood disorders such as difficulties with sleep, concentration, eating, and chronic health conditions.

In other parts of MICCN, Dr Marie Yap has developed innovative ways of equipping and upskilling parents so that they may better relate to their children and minimise the risks and impact of depression and anxiety in children and young adults. And Mr David Bakker, a Doctor of Clinical Psychology candidate, has led the development of the MoodMission app that helps people deal with stress, low moods, and anxiety, all of which can point to signs of depression.

Depression causes tremendous damages to an individual and their families’ health and well-being. The message that MICCN would like to send out for this year’s World Health Day is that effective and affordable treatments for depression are available.

“Depression does not discriminate; as our research shows, it can occur in adolescents and young adults, right through to the older generation”, Dr Kazantzis said. “At MICCN, our team of leading clinician-researchers are developing world-class, individualised treatment for depression. We encourage anyone who feels that they may need that extra bit of support to take that first step and make contact with us via our clinics. We’re here to improve the quality of people’s lives; we’re here to help, so let’s talk.”


1 World Health Organisation. (2012). Depression: A Global Crisis.

2 Manicavasagar V. (2012). A review of depression diagnosis and management. InPsych, 34.

3 Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2007). National Survey of Mental Health and Well-being: Summary of results.

4 Sleep Health Foundation

MICCN’s Clinical Services: For a list of MICCN Clinics, please visit the MICCN website.

About World Health Day: World Health Day is celebrated on 7 April every year to mark the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organisation (WHO). It provides WHO with a unique opportunity to mobilise action around a specific health topic of concern to people all over the world.

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World Health Day