Treatment for depression typically involves medication, a type of therapy also known as psychotherapy, or a mixture of both.1
However, it is important to remember that depression is often complex and as unique as you are. Everyone is affected differently and what works for one person might not work for another. You might find that certain treatments work for you and others might not. In fact, a number of steps are often needed before people living with depression start to notice an improvement in their symptoms.
The GP or family doctor will often manage treatment in milder cases of depression, where the depressive illness has not been going on for a long time.2 Treatment can include medication or a referral for counselling or psychotherapy. For milder conditions, short term counselling or psychotherapy can be effective. There may be a particular issue affecting you and support from a counsellor or psychotherapist may be enough to treat the condition.
If the condition is more moderate to severe, the GP or family doctor will make a referral to the local mental health services. In these cases, there may be more serious symptoms experienced and longer-term psychotherapy and/or medication may be needed.2
The first meeting with a psychiatrist would be an opportunity to explore your experiences, past treatment and medical history. Following this, the psychiatrist will work with you to plan your treatment journey, whether that is medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both. You may be referred back to your GP with recommendations for treatment, offered another appointment or be referred on for further assessment.3 To learn more about preparing for appointments, visit here.
It is important to be involved in the decision-making process with your clinician and to discuss your goals and what is important to you.
Some questions to consider asking your GP or other healthcare professional about your treatment options include:
After one session of counselling or psychotherapy, you may feel like a weight has been lifted, but try not to panic if you don’t feel better straight away. People often need to attend several medical appointments to get a diagnosis or try multiple treatments or medications at different doses before finding the one that works for them. This process can take time and it can sometimes feel frustrating. If something doesn’t work for you, remember there’s no right or wrong – each step forward brings you closer to managing your condition.
As you progress through your treatment journey, it’s essential to be honest with your clinician, flagging any problems as early you can. In this way, your treatment plan can be changed to suit you.
During this time, family and friends may ask you questions about your treatment - remember it’s up to you to decide what you share with whom and when. It’s okay to take a step back from conversations if you feel overwhelmed.
If you are supporting someone who lives with depression, patience and perseverance are important. Try to understand that your loved one will share things with you, as and when they are ready. Avoid pushing the person to talk more than they want to. Remember too that progress can go backwards as well as forwards. It’s important that your loved one knows that you are in it for the long run. After planting a seed, you wouldn’t dig up the earth to check how it’s growing – in the same way, it takes time for treatment to take effect, allow this to happen naturally and your loved one will appreciate you for it.