Research projects

Experiences of depression and recovery in Australia

Principal researchers

Associate Professor Renata Kokanovic (Lead Chief Investigator)
Professor Sue Ziebland, Oxford University (Co-Chief Investigator)
Professor Jane Gunn, University of Melbourne (Co-Chief Investigator)
Nicole Highet, Beyond Blue (Partner Investigator)


Monash University
University of Oxford
University of Melbourne


$73,000 from Beyond Blue (total grant $320,000)

Award type

ARC Linkage Grant (Industry partner: Beyond Blue)

Project completion year


Project brief

This project established a unique partnership between Monash, Oxford and Melbourne Universities and Beyond Blue. The researchers conducted in-depth narrative interviews with 39 people from around Australia on their experiences of depression and recovery. Participants were men and women from varied backgrounds in terms of age, cultural and socio-economic background, and sexuality.

Stories were video or audio-recorded then carefully analysed to create an effective and unique public website designed to support people experiencing depression and those involved in their care. The website captures both overall findings from all interviews, as well as individual stories, illustrated by video, audio and written excerpts.

Aims and objectives

The aim of this research was to improve understanding of people’s experiences of depression and recovery from depression, and provide resources to support people living with depression, as well as their families, friends, the health/allied health professionals involved in their care and policy makers. 

Results and conclusions

Project findings clustered around five major themes: stories of depression; negotiating the health system; everyday life with depression; recovery; and messages for others experiencing depression or supporting someone with depression. People’s experiences were extremely diverse. Rarely did interviewees pinpoint a single cause for their experience of depression, some experiencing it from a young age and others confronting it later in life. People sought information from different sources – the internet, books, friends and family, or health professionals. Once ‘in’ the health system, they appreciated empathetic, open-minded professionals who took time to listen. However, preferences and experiences of different treatments varied – some found medication or hospitalisation effective while others preferred ‘talking therapies’, complementary or holistic approaches, or a combination of treatments.

Dealing with everyday life was made easier by supportive and understanding families and friends, workplaces and education providers. Although stigma remained a key issue, many people were committed to reducing stigma by sharing their experiences. Recovery was a slow and uneven process for some while for others it was faster and more straightforward. Many people talked about learning more about themselves through the experience of depression, and making significant life changes as a result. Finally, interviewees urged others experiencing depression to seek help, to try different things, and to be patient. They also called on health professionals to be understanding, explain things adequately, and offer people experiencing depression different treatment choices. 

Project website

Click here for more information.

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