The Arthritis Newsletter

Fall 2013

Depression and Arthritis Self Care

By Erin Carruthers and Sheila Kerr Edited by Dr. Diane Lacaille


Have you found that you are battling depression along with your arthritis? Are you looking for help to manage the impact of arthritis on your life?


A group of people living with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) joined a team of researchers at the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada and Vancouver Coastal Health on an exciting new project, the Arthritis Health Journal. The Journal is an online tool, which can help patients recognize problems. Early treatment can lead to better disease control.


A section of the journal is dedicated to assessing mood and managing depression. Before developing the journal, researchers met with people with RA to find out what was most important to them. Keeping track of changes in mood was reported as being a top priority. Research estimates that between 10 and 45% of people with RA have depression. Depression may stem from the arthritis disease process itself, the day-to-day challenges of living with the disease and/or the medications that manage the disease. Depression in men with arthritis appears to be more severe than in women.


The Arthritis Health Journal uses the Patient Health Questionnaire 9 (PHQ-9) scale to screen for depression. It does not replace an evaluation by a doctor, but it is used as a guide to help identify symptoms of depression. If the screening tool shows that you may be experiencing some depression, it suggests ways to help manage your mood. For people living in British Columbia, the services below may be recommended:


  • Bounce Back program is a skill building program for adults experiencing low mood, stress or anxiety. It is available with a referral from your family doctor.
  • The Anti-depressant Skills Workbook is a free step-by-step guide to changing patterns that trigger depression.
  • Emotional support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week through crisis lines in British Columbia. A contact telephone number for the crisis line in your area can be found at: http://www.crisislines.bc.ca/#!our-members


For those living outside British Columbia, there are other resources available:


  • A self-assessment tool for depression is available on the Mayo Clinic website.
  • The Canadian Mental Health Association provides valuable information and access to resources. Click “find a local CMHA” on their website.
  • Men with arthritis are more prone to severe depression. The Mayo Clinic offers information directed specifically towards men.
    “Male depression is a serious medical condition, but many men try to ignore it or refuse treatment. Learn the signs and symptoms – and what to do.”
  • The Mayo Clinic website also provides information on symptoms, causes, treatments, self-help, coping and support for major depression. You can also sign up for their newsletter on managing depression.
  • MoodGYM is an interactive web program designed to prevent depression. It consists of five modules, an interactive game, anxiety and depression assessments, downloadable relaxation audio, a workbook and feedback assessment.
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year, often in the winter months. Information about light therapy can be found at the Mayo Clinic website.


The Arthritis Health Journal encourages patients to become more active in managing their disease and in making decisions in partnership with their health care team. The effect of arthritis on mental health is often ignored, so keeping track of your mood and taking positive steps to improve it can make a huge difference to your quality of life.


*Be one of the first people to use the Arthritis Health Journal by participating in our pilot study!

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