If you’re in a hard season of life, you may be sad, depressed or lonely. Find out which category you’ve fallen into and what to do about it…

Is today’s world sad, depressing and lonely or it is glorious, exciting and inspiring?

“In reality, it is none of these things, it simply is,” says Hilary Morris, a counsellor at LifeLine Western Cape.

She explains that much of our viewpoint is coloured by a variety of media.

“We know that, for some bizarre reason, bad news tends to sell.  This means that catastrophes make for more readers than the thousands of small kindnesses that take place among people on a daily basis.”

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Morris says that our emotional temperature is often conditioned by what is happening around us.

“South Africa, as if anyone needs telling, is a stressed country right now, as are America, Britain, Middle Eastern countries and so on and so on. All these factors lend themselves to a state of depression about the future if we are pre-disposed to buying into negativity.”

According to Morris, to a greater or lesser extent, we are impacted on by our surroundings.  The economic climate, unemployment, financial worries, violence and crime all have a huge impact on the collective psyche.


Recognising the difference between sadness, depression and loneliness

“At LifeLine, we interact with people on an individual basis and because our approach to counselling is person-centred, the nuances of emotional distress are all-important. So it is important that we are able to recognise whether the person is sad, depressed or lonely,” explains Morris.  

Are these emotions related and if so how?

Sad situations

Sadness is usually situational – caused by an event, a happening, a loss, something that affects us in the moment. It is generally relatively short term and easier to get over than depression.

“Usually we tend to try to avoid emotions that are perceived to be negative, which doesn’t make sense. How would we recognise joy and happiness if we had not experienced sadness and grief?” says Morris.

If the cause of the sadness is unknown, it is worth searching back to find when it started and what was happening at the time.

Sadness is often the appropriate response to the situation that causes it and should be acknowledged and honoured and given its rightful place in our lives.

In the depths of depression

Depression is more deep seated and is often a condition requiring treatment.

Whether it is caused by a chemical imbalance or as a deeply felt response to something from which we cannot escape, depression can be debilitating.

Someone suffering from depression may be unable to function normally and simply getting out of bed in the morning can take an enormous effort.

The impact of depression should not be under-estimated and the duration is much longer than sadness.

Alone in a crowd

Loneliness is different from being alone.  Some people relish solitude and find pleasure in having time on their own.

“People who are lonely may have difficulty in relating to others, may feel out of place in a group, may have a sense of not belonging,” explains Morris.

Loneliness can also come from loss – of a partner, a friend, or from a change of environment.  A sense or feeling of being different to our peer group can also lead to loneliness.

Recognise, accept and acknowledge our emotions

“There are ways of dealing with all our emotions, and a useful starting point is to recognise, accept and acknowledge them,” advises Morris, “Then to explore the what and the why of the emotion and decide whether we wish to change it and if so what we need to do in order to find a feeling that is more comfortable.”

She says that everything we experience is there for a reason; it is what we do with it that counts.


If you feel sad, depressed or lonely, contact LifeLine Western Cape on 021 461 1111, Whatsapp 063 709 2620 (09h30 to 22h00) or make a face-to-face appointment by calling 021 461 1113 (office hours). Lifeline’s services are free of charge.

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.