what is depression?

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According to the World Health Organisation, Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide and 300 million people have it. Go and see your GP if you think you have depression, in general people often wait a long time before seeking treatment. The NHS thinks only 70% of depression is picked up by healthcare professionals. 

Depression often goes alongside anxiety, but can also come before or after depression. This is something that our members often describe.

Depression is a biological disease that interacts with social factors, our psychology and thoughts to have a devastating effect on people's lives. Depression and anxiety are on one level all about a chronic stress response in the body which is triggered repeatedly rather than short term stress that is a normal part of everyday life and this manifests itself in physical symptoms, thoughts and feelings.

 "It's a biochemical disorder with a genetic component, and early experience influences where somebody can't appreciate sunsets" Robert Sapolsky, Professor of Biology, Neurology and Neurological Sciences, Stanford University.

"Depression is a cover version by a downbeat emo band, and anxiety is a cover version by a screaming heavy metal group, but the underlying sheet music is the same. They've not identical, but they are twinned" Johann Hari. 

It is a mix of symptoms that are often difficult to pin down, but can include

  • anhedonia (lack of enjoyment of things, particularly ones you should enjoy)
  • apathy
  • guilt
  • grief
  • obsessive worries
  • psychomotor slowing (physical difficulty to do everyday tasks such as brushing your teeth)
  • problems sleeping
  • hopelessness
  • eating little or eating too much
  • pain

Unhelpful language around depression

Because depression is a word used to mean sadness and other similar words, there is a real stigma around people seeking help and even talking about it to their partners, family, friends and workplaces.

Until the 1920s even though it was being studied a lot, it was called Melancholia and the American Psychiatric Association eventually went for depression as a term which included variants such as depressive reaction, depressive neurosis with detours along the idea of 'endogenous' and 'exogenous' depression before finally settling at today's terms major depressive disorder, depression and clinical depression. A similar thing happened with bipolar disorder which was called manic depression (and variants). Even today many people repeat unhelpful old names and terms. 

Some feel that clinical depression is an unhelpful term as it leads some people to believe that they don't have it and not seek help. You should always talks to a GP as soon as possible.

Risk factors 

Around 40% of the susceptability of depression and anxiety is believed to be down to genetics. This means that it isn't inevitable and means someone will get it if social and environmental factors are triggered. 

  • isolation and loneliness
  • bereavement
  • workplace stress
  • other major life events such as university, losing a job, traumatic event
  • substance abuse
  • lack of control
  • lack of meaningful activies such as work 
  • sleeping problems or working night shifts


Originally in the 1950s it was thought that a neurotransmitter called Noradrenaline had a lot to do with depression as medications related to this in early antidepressants. Over time it was also discovered that Dopamine had a role and particularly Serotonin. A particular gene called SLC6A4 had a vast number of research studies and papers focussed on it was heavily associated with the genetic risk of developing depression if stress and traumatic events triggered it and how likely it was to return. The protein that is encoded by SLC6A4 is today now much better known as the serotonin transporter, or SERT, or 5-HTT. A bad analogy is that the neurotransmitters are a bit like oil lubcricating the neuron connections in the brain allowing better running. These neurotransmitters were the basis of where all five classes of 'antidepressants' originated from. The monoamine theory of depression is that these three neurotransmitters (sometimes quoted as two) have something to do with depression. One of the puzzles is why SSRIs do not work straight away and this is the basis of a lot of research, one leading theory is that the binding sites the neurotransmitters work on get gummed up in an area of cell membranes called lipid rafts and over time are moved out where they can work better.

Postnatal depression

Postnatal depression is not the 'baby blues', which can last up to two weeks after giving birth and goes and affects such a large percentage of women (up to 80%) that it's considered 'normal'. Postnatal depression often starts 2 to 8 weeks after giving birth, but can not be picked up or emerge later and the NHS quotes this as a year, although some believe it may even be 2 years. Postnatal depression affects 1 in 10 women. In the past it went vastly underdiagnosed. 

The NHS website has a lot of resources for postnatal depression here. There are support groups in Sheffield through Light. In Sheffield there is a small dedicated team of midwives that deal with mental health after childbirth. Anyone with anxiety, depression, or low mood after childbirth is welcome to attend NPS self help groups. 

The levels of estrogen and progesterone and their ratios and particularly sudden changes are intimately linked to mental health. For anxiety, depression and low mood the focus is often on short term stress response or the HPA axis. However the hypothalamus which is at the bottom of the limbic system deep in the brain , which is often associated with emotions, also controls the HPG axis linked to reproduction and hormones. When the HPG axis in women is no longer regulated, the menopause results, which varies but can lead to some very severe symptoms and difficulties with mental health.

Protective Factors

The idea of protective factors has received a lot of interest recently due to the BBC documentary Alastair Campbell: Depression and Me where he talks about a jar that can break and extra parts that can be added on top. This is a really good way of seeing things that can protect against depression returning or make it slightly more manageable. Protective factors can be very small things such as things you enjoy. Major protective factors are exercise, a support network of good friends/family and coping strategies.







Latest News

No Panic Sheffield AGM and 10th Anniversary on 23rd May 2019

The AGM was held on 23rd May attended by trustees, volunteers and group members.  We are pleased to announce we have appointed five new trustees - Sarah, Haleema, Mel, Charlie and Kate.  All of them are either current facilitators or have been facilitators in the past.

They join Paul, Rob, Brendan, Lorien and Laura on the committee to help make decisions around the running of No Panic Sheffield Charity.

A number of trustees stood down at the AGM - Anne stood down as Chair after 8 years with the charity, 6 of them as Chair,  also standing down Richard affter 4 years, Karen and Matt after one year.

We are pleased to announce that Paul has been elected as chair.  You can find out more about our trustees on our About Us page.


Chesterfield half marathon

Our team successfully completed the Redbrik Chesterfield Half Marathon Wellbeing Challenge on 21st October 2018. Rob ran the the 13.1 mile Half Marathon, Matt & Karen ran the 5 mile run and Richard and Anne ran the one kilometre fun run in Chesterfield to raise money for No Panic Sheffield.  There's still time to donate money to sponsor this challenge - donate online via the donate button

We welcome any donation, no matter how small, that you can give. Donate in cash to our volunteers or pay via PayPal or any major credit card by clicking this button



As the Quaker Meeting House closes between Christmas and New Year our last meetings before Christmas will be 19th & 20th December and our first meetings after Christmas will be 9th & 10th January 2019.


We have appointed 5 new facilitator volunteers  Haleema, Holly, Beth, Sara and Mick.  Welcome to No Panic Sheffield.
We are sorry to be saying goodbye to Shareen and Chloe - thanks to both of you for all your commitment and contribution to the work of No Panic Sheffield.
We have appointed Kate as Thursday group Lead Facilitator and Sarah as Lead Facilitator for Wednesday.


The AGM was held on 24th May and we are pleased to announce we have appointed four new trustees - Matt, Lorien, Karen and Laura.  All of them are either current facilitators or have been facilitators in the past.
They join Anne, Rob, Brendan and Richard on the committee to help make decisions around the running of No Panic Sheffield Charity.

We also said goodbye and a big thank you to Gerry who has stepped down as Secretary after many years of being on the committee.  Gerry is also one of our longest attending members.  Thank you to Gerry.

To help us to run our groups and secure our financial stability it would be great if people coming to our groups would consider making a monthly donation.  If you regularly attend our groups then a monthly donation equal to £3 per group would really help us to cover some of the costs of running the meetings.  You can use paypal giving to set up a regular monthly donation.  

To make a one off donation you can visit our website.  To set up a monthly donation please click here


Thank you to Stocksbridge Golf Club

Stocksbridge Golf Club members have been fundraising all year and the result has been a donation to No Panic Sheffield of £2,380.

Rob our treasurer went along to the club on Saturday 10th March to accept a cheque from the Lady Captain Cath Busfield - we are very grateful for this generous donation.


Paypal Giving and Ebay

Great news - we are now a PayPal recognised charity - this means that we can now set up an ebay account to sell items where all the proceeds go to No Panic Sheffield - and people can add a donation to our charity when making a purchase from any ebay seller. If you have items to sell via ebay and want to give 100% of the proceeds to us - contact us and we will give you our login so you can create a listing on our account. No listing or Final Value fees are charged and all funds are deposited directly into our PayPal account If you regularly buy items or sell items on ebay on your own account you can now opt to give us a donation for each purchase or sale you make.

We are now also able to take donations from anyone via paypal giving and this will be very useful in our fundraising.


Anxiety at Christmas

Christmas is often described as ‘the most wonderful time of the year’. However for many of us it is filled with anxiety and depression. Here are some tips to help get you through the festive season.

1.     Indulging: it can be very tempting at Christmas to treat ourselves. However it is important to remember the effect some foods have on our moods. For example too much caffeine and sugar can have negative impacts on our emotions.
2.     Alcohol: alcohol can have negative effects on our emotions. So it is important to know your limits and to drink responsibly.
3.     Keeping active: you may not feel like going outside much over the cold winter months. However fresh air and exercise can aid in improving our moods and can help gain a clear head.
4.     Distracted: if things feel like they are getting too much keep distracted perhaps with relaxation techniques or breathing exercises.
5.     Move at your own pace: don’t feel pressured to adhere to the rush and excitement of Christmas. Our reality of Christmas isn’t what we see on TV and social media and that is ok!
6.     Time for yourself: make sure to take time to do what makes you happy and calm. Such as watching your favourite film, read a book or listen to music.
7.     Support: know where you can turn if you need support. That can be friends and family or helplines.


Apps to help with anxiety

Anxiety can hinder all aspects of your life, therefore learning to take control and manage it successfully can increase your quality of life. There are many methods in which this can be achieved. This can be through seeking professional help, coping independently or both. Apps are a good way to help you through this process, and here are five examples.

A key aspect of anxiety is the racing thoughts and overactive brain. Meditation can be really helpful with targeting this. It has been shown to help people stress less, focus more and sleep better. Headspace is a free app that teaches you how to meditate. It makes meditation simple and can help teach you life-changing mindfulness skills in just a few minutes a day.

Breathing techniques can work similarly to meditation. These exercises can help decrease the body’s ‘fight or flight’ stress response and can also help with mood stabilization, anger control and anxiety management. Breathe2Relax is a free stress management tool. This app can be personalised to a pace the user finds relaxing.


Stress and anxiety can cause sleeping disturbances, or worsen existing ones. It can be really hard to ‘switch off’ and in turn this lack of sleep can affect functioning the next day. Relax melodies is an app that can help improve your sleep and allows you to select soothing sounds and create a mix to help you fall asleep. It can also be used to create a few minutes of calm in the middle of the day.

Often we expect the outcome to be worse than reality. Our anxiety and our thoughts can run wild and we can expect the worst case scenario. It can be helpful to track these thought processes as a way to combat them in the future. Worry watch is an anxiety journal. It is designed to help capture and reflect on anxiety about everyday things. It allows you to log ‘what might happen’ and then ‘what did happen’. The aim is to help realise that the outcome is often not as bad as we expect. And through knowing this it can help minimize the gap between expectations and reality.

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy where the patient is actively involved in their own recovery, with this brings a sense of control over the anxiety. Pacifica is an app that integrates practices from cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness. The app lets you rate and track your mood over time and provides guided deep breathing and muscle relaxation exercises, daily anti-anxiety experiments and health goals. The aim is to learn to manage your own feelings day by day at your own pace. Pacifica also includes a peer community where you can share your stories and advice.

      Why not give one of these apps a go to see if it can help you with your anxiety recovery!


No Panic Sheffield is now a member of NCVO

No Panic Sheffield has been accepted as a member of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. This will give us access to training, support and other services which will assist us in running the organisation more efficiently.



No Panic Sheffield Shortlisted for VAS Award

We have been shortlisted for a Voluntary Action Sheffield Make a Difference Award - in the Small Group Big Impact Category - only 2 organisations have been shortlisted for this award so we are delighted to have been chosen.  The awards ceremony was held on 24th November at Cutlers hall.  We were selected as a runner up in our nominated category and received a certificate from Jessica Ennis-Hill.  The event was a great success and each shortlisted organisation was able to show a 30 second video explaining their work and why they should win the award.  This was an excellent opportunity for us to promote the work of No Panic Sheffield at this presigious gathering attended by a large number of voluntary organisations, David Blunkett, the master cutler and the mayor of Sheffield.

For more information see the VAS website

Voluntary Action Sheffield supports local organisations who want to make a difference in their communities

Success in London Marathon

Thanks to everyone who supported Rob in his challenge to run the London Marathon on 26th April.  He completed the course in under 4 hours.  We are still accepting donations and estimate we have raised around £2,000 so far.  We willl updated the total once all donations have come in for this sponsorship event.  If you would like to donate please go to our Just Giving Page