7 Ways to Ensure You're Getting the Help You Need

While depression and other mental health disorders interfere in your quality of life, they are also highly treatable. Despire this fact, only about one in five people with depression receive adequate treatment. Minorities, especially Mexican Americans and African Americans, are even less likely to get the help they need. Different ethnic groups sometimes manifest different symptoms, which leads to misdiagnoses and inappropriate (or no) treatment.

Most depressed patients find relief from antidepressant medications, psychotherapy, or a combination of both. The goal of treatment is to put you in remission, which means there's a significant reduction or elimination of depressive symptoms. Appropriate treatment not only makes you feel better and improves the quality of your life, it helps prevent a relapse in the future.

7 Tips for Getting the Help You Need

1. Understand your disorder. Learn all you can about depression so you can recognize the symptoms and understand the available treatment options.

2. Find a mental health professional. Many people seek help from their family physician (if at all). The symptoms of mental health disorders overlap, so it's not unusual for a general practitioner to misdiagnose your illness. If you don't feel you're getting the help you need, ask your physician for a referral to someone who specializes in treating your disorder.

3. Tell your physician about any concerns you have about treatment. Antidepressants take time to begin working and may produce unpleasant side effects, so many people stop taking them on their own before they see a reduction in symptoms.

4. Rule out underlying conditions. Ask your doctor to evaluate you for other health problems that may interfere in depression treatment.

5. Help yourself. You can take steps to manage your depression even if you're receiving professional treatment. Start by eating a healthy diet. Select foods rich in mood-enhancing properties, and avoid sugar, caffeine, and highly processed foods. Exercise regularly and learn stress management and relaxation techniques.

6. Ask your doctor about alternative treatment strategies. If you don't respond to your antidepressant, your physician has several alternative options. He may increase the dose, add another medication that helps the antidepressant work more effectively, or try a different medication altogether. There are additional treatments, such as electroconvulsive therapy, that work in treatment-resistant patients.

7. Chart your own progress. The Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) is a simple online questionnaire that helps you determine how depressed you are so you can gauge how well your treatment is working.


KaiserNetwork.org. "Coverage & Access | More People Receiving Treatment for Depression, Yet Only 20% Receive Adequate Treatment, Study Says." Web. 18 June 2003.


National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Mental Health. "Initial Results Help Clinicians Identify Patients with Treatment-Resistant Depression." Web. 6 January 2006.