How to Get Help for Depression

Nearly everyone has experienced a time when it hardly seems worth the effort to get out of bed, or when the problems they face seem so overwhelming that they're not sure where to begin. These feelings and thoughts are helpful warning signs that something isn’t right.

Depression is a medical condition, not a personal weakness. People who suffer from depression should seek medical treatment, although many avoid it for various reasons—poor finances, embarrassment, uncertainty about where to go, or lack of knowledge about the seriousness of the condition.

Without treatment, depression can last for weeks, months or even years. Besides feeling sad, tired and rundown, untreated depression can also increase the risk of other problems, including:
  • Increased difficulty making decisions and facing life’s challenges.
  • A weakened immune system, resulting in more and longer-lasting illnesses.
  • Insomnia, which leads to fatigue, reduced mental clarity, and trouble concentrating.
  • A higher risk of death in the event of a heart attack or stroke.
  • Alcohol and drug use, abuse, and dependence.
  • Long-term disability, resulting in lost wages and financial struggle.
  • Strained relationships with family and friends.
  • Suicidal thoughts and/or attempts. If you are seriously thinking about harming yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention hotline (1-800-273-8255) right now.
The sooner you recognize and treat your depression, the better your chances for recovery (and prevention of future episodes) will be. Recognizing that depression is negatively affecting your life and seeking the help you need are the first—and most challenging—steps you need to take before you can get well.

Finding the Help You Need
Your primary care physician is qualified to evaluate you and rule out any underlying conditions that may be causing your symptoms. Be open and honest when talking with your doctor. Remember that depression is a real medical condition and says nothing about your character, willpower, or value as a person. Your doctor is specially trained and will not pass judgment or make your feel uncomfortable.

After discussing your symptoms and health status, your doctor will recommend treatment options for you, and may refer you to another professional (such as a nurse practitioner, psychiatric nurse specialist, social worker, mental health counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist) for further evaluation or counseling. A combination of medication and therapy is the most common treatment method.

Other Sources of Help
If you don’t have insurance or can't afford to visit a primary care doctor, try visiting a:
  • Community mental health center
  • University-affiliated health center
  • Employee assistance program
  • Faith-based clinic or clergy
  • Family & social service agency or social worker
  • Free health clinic
The professionals at these locations can help you find the resources you need, either referring you to another professional or providing free or low-cost diagnoses and treatment options.

You should work closely with your health care provider to come up with the best treatment plan for you. These plans usually involve some combination of psychotherapy, medication, lifestyle changes (diet and exercise), and alternative therapies like yoga, meditation and visualization. The good news is that you don’t have to live with depression, a condition that is entirely treatable. More than 80% of people with depression benefit from treatment and can live fulfilling, productive lives.
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Member Comments

Good article... Report
it is good to talk to friends Report
So glad to be hearing more conversation about this serious health topic! Report
There are so many advocates for counseling and doctors, anybody can seek help, even if they do not own a phone or car. Family/friends support is critical though. Report
Thank you for such a balanced article. Depression is a complex condition that requires a multi-faceted treatment approach, and sometimes that includes medication. Too often I see advice that suggests that lifestyle changes, therapy, alternative treatments, or even "attitude adjustment" alone can solve the problem; while this may be true for some people, it's not always the case. Report
Good information Report
good points Report
Good article. Report
And if you're in the UK, you can phone the Samaritans, on 08457 90 90 90, or email
.. They will not judge you, they will listen, and whilst they may not have actual answers, they will take as long as you need to help you work things through for yourself and work out how to get help. Actually, you can email from anywhere in the world, they will still help you Report
It is not valid to say depression is a medical condition... psychiatrists can't really agree whether that is true. The most we can say is some depression may have a medical element, although we don't understand how, why or even if, the medications work. Too many people turn to pills first, because they hear the words it is "medical". This can lead to a lifetime of semi-satisfied existence looking for the magic pill for happiness. Psychopharm pills should be the last resort unless clearly indicated to a trained professional (not your GP) and should always be part of an overall treatment plan. Be cautious of the medical condition road most travelled. Report
Why did you not mention TWELVE STEP Programs?? I know of at least 2 . Why is it we should have to go to a professional when in a different article they were running down antidepressants!! GUESS WHAT ? If you go to a GP or a shrink one of the first things they will do is write you out an RX for pills . Report
I thought this was a great article and wish I came across it sooner. I have wondered and well worried for years that I was suffering from depression. This past school year I really started to see a trend in my behavior around my monthly period. I talked with my husband and we felt I should talk with my doctor. I pride myself for being strong and felt weak for not being able to control my emotions. After heading into the doctor for a sinus infection which just happen to occur during my period, I told my doctor all that was going on. I gave her my history of past times I know I was on a major roller coaster ride of emotions and family history of depression. I love my doctor (also a female) and she calmly assured me I was not crazy and that many woman deal with depression especially around their period. I am taking a low dose of Prozac and feel so much calmer and not on a crazy ride of emotions like I was on at the beginning of Jan. It took me over a year or more to break down and talk to my doctor. It took almost that long to talk to my husband about it. And really it took me being in an emotional state and see how much it helped my grandmother to get me to talk to my doctor. If you are dealing with depression, I hope and pray that you will find that courage to speak with someone and seek help. Nothing to be ashamed of and well now, I enjoy life! Report
There is a fantastic organization called NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness). There website address is They have free educational classes and support groups not only for the people that have depression, bipolar, etc., but for their families too. My sixteen year old daughter is bipolar, which entails severe depression (has had four suicide attempts) and a cutter. It's been three months since she last cut. I attribute a lot of that to attending NAMI groups. She has people that she can talk to that are experiencing the same emotions and how they are coping. For over three years I felt like I was fighting this huge battle by myself but now we have dozens of people that are helping us get through this. I am a broke single mom that thought that I would never be able to afford her the help she needs. NAMI was literally a life saver. Not only is my daughter healthier mentally than she has been in years, she is going to junior highs and talking to teens to help get rid of the stigma attached to mental illness and talking about her experiences so they feel more comfortable asking for help before its too late. Report


About The Author

Nicole Nichols
Nicole Nichols
A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as "Coach Nicole." Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.