Who to talk to about depression

Jennifer E. Engen

It can be difficult to talk about depression symptoms, but reaching out for help is an important first step. People with depression can talk to licensed mental health professionals as well as friends and family.

Depression is a widespread mental health condition affecting about 5% of adults globally. It can make someone lose interest in the things they once enjoyed and decrease their ability to function at work and at home.

Doctors can treat depression with medication and therapy.

Although talking about depression can be challenging, the sooner people seek treatment, the better their quality of life will be. Individuals can speak with friends and family if possible or contact a counselor, psychiatrist, or another registered medical professional.

Read more to learn about who people can talk to about depression and what they should look for in a mental health professional.

Depression is a relatively common yet treatable mental health condition.

Doctors treat depression with various medications and therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and psychodynamic therapy. Up to 90% of people with depression respond to treatment and gain relief from some of their symptoms.

For most people experiencing symptoms, the first step is talking to a primary care doctor.

The doctor may conduct a mental health screening to learn more about the individual’s mental health. After performing a physical exam to evaluate a person’s overall health, they will ask questions about the person’s feelings, mood, behavior patterns, and any other symptoms they are experiencing.

Depending on the individual’s symptoms, a doctor may refer them to a mental health specialist.

Common types of mental health professionals include:

  • Psychiatrists: A psychiatrist is a fully qualified medical doctor who specializes in mental health. They can diagnose and treat mental health conditions and prescribe medication. Some psychiatrists further specialize in specific areas of mental health such as addiction, eating disorders, and depression.
  • Psychologists: These individuals usually have doctoral degrees instead of medical degrees. They can diagnose and treat mental health conditions, but they generally cannot prescribe medication. They may provide group therapy sessions or one-on-one counseling.
  • Licensed clinical social workers (LCSW): Also called therapists, clinicians, and counselors, these mental health professionals usually have a master’s degree in social work and additional training in mental health conditions. They may diagnose mental health conditions and provide counseling. Although they cannot prescribe medication, they may work with other health professionals who can.
  • Licensed professional counselors: Often, these individuals have a master’s degree, but qualifications vary by country and state. Like LCSWs, people may refer to them as therapists, clinicians, and counselors. They can diagnose mental health conditions and provide counseling, but they cannot prescribe medication.
  • Advanced practice registered nurses: These specially trained nurses have a master’s or doctoral degree in psychiatric nursing. They can assess, diagnose, and treat a range of mental health conditions. Depending on location, they may be able to prescribe medication.

Learn more about different kinds of mental health professionals and what they do.

Finding the right mental health professional can be a challenge. A person’s primary care or family doctor should be able to provide a referral or recommendation to a suitable psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor who will meet their needs.

Various other resources can also help a person find a doctor, including:

  • Health insurance companies: These should have a list of healthcare professionals they cover. People may find this information on the company’s website.
  • Nonprofits: Government websites, mental health organizations, and nonprofits may provide listings of low cost mental health professionals.
  • Employee assistance programs: Some companies with mental health benefits may have an employee assistance program that helps people find a suitable healthcare professional.
  • Friends and family: If a person is unsure where to turn, they may be able to discuss their depression with friends or family before contacting a doctor.

An individual should consider various factors when looking for a mental health professional to help with depression. These include the following:

Specific needs

If a person is experiencing symptoms of depression, they may want to look for a mental health professional who specializes in this condition. People who have a specific issue related to their depression, such as addiction or PTSD, may benefit from consulting someone who focuses on these areas.

Medications

Not all mental health professionals have a license to prescribe medication. Therefore, if a person thinks they may need medication, they should choose someone who can provide this service.

Depending on an individual’s circumstances, they may need to see one professional for talk therapy and another to access medication.

Insurance

If an individual has health insurance, their policy likely specifies certain mental health services that it covers. The insurance company may also limit a person’s choice of doctors to those who are part of their network.

Under these circumstances, a person should check with their insurance company to determine which professionals they cover and the benefit limits.

Personal preferences

Additionally, because it is crucial that individuals feel comfortable talking with a doctor, they should also consider their personal preferences. These factors may include the mental health professional’s gender, cultural background, and religion.

Although doctors can treat depression, at least 75% of people with major depression do not receive adequate treatment. This is largely due to how difficult it can be to access and afford these services.

Thankfully, low cost and free options exist.

Therapy

Depending on an individual’s location, the following options may provide low cost therapy:

  • therapists or clinics that charge for their service on a sliding scale based on a person’s income
  • federally funded health centers that allow individuals to pay what they can afford
  • colleges and universities that offer low cost therapy to students

Prescription medications

Although medication can be expensive, doctors can recommend generic alternatives that are cheaper. Some pharmacies may also provide savings schemes and discounts.

Additionally, many pharmaceutical companies have assistance programs for people without insurance. The eligibility requirements for these programs vary, and individuals may want to contact pharmaceutical companies directly to enquire about potential help.

People may also find help from NeedyMeds, a nonprofit that helps individuals find assistance programs to cover medication costs.

Finally, people in the United States on low incomes may quality for Medicaid. This federal government program varies by state, but it can cover some mental health treatment costs.

Learn more about free and low cost therapy.

Depression is a serious mental health condition that can negatively impact an individual’s daily life, work, and relationships. People with the condition often require treatment, including therapy and medication.

An individual should consider various factors when choosing a mental health professional. These include their mental health needs, insurance coverage, and whether or not they require medication.

Although therapy and medications for depression can be expensive, there are low cost and free options available for people who cannot otherwise access care.

For more information and resources, please visit our dedicated mental health hub.

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/depression-doctor

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