The short answer is maybe. There are many factors that influence the success of treatment for depression. First of all, how severe is the depression? Are you still able to function in day to day life? Are you going to work, taking care of your children? If so, your primary care doctor may be able to put you on an antidepressant medication that will significantly help. Most primary care doctors have a good, basic understanding of common antidepressant medications, and if your depression is relatively mild, that may be good enough. However, treatment of depression is not always that simple. Your primary care doctor (PCP) is busy. Most PCP’s see 30 to 50 patients per day. They don’t have time to really talk at length about what is going on with you emotionally.
If your depression is more severe, and especially if you have any suicidal feelings, the PCP alone may not be enough. If you have good access to your PCP, that is a start, but your PCP may want to refer you to a mental health professional. Some primary care doctors are now integrating mental health practitioners into their practices. That makes mental health care so much more accessible. Some people hesitate to see a mental health professional because they don’t know where to start. Should you see a social worker, psychologist, or a psychiatrist? Hopefully, your PCP can help you navigate through the system and figure out what referral is best.
There are some reasons why you might want to consider seeing a mental health professional initially. Not everyone responds to medication. Sometimes the initial antidepressant medication doesn’t work and needs to be switched. This takes time and patience on your part. What do you do in the meantime? Mental health counsellors can provide some support during that time. Most recent studies have shown that the best treatment for depression is a combination of some type of “talk therapy” and medication.
Sometimes the best therapy might be counselling rather than medication. Many patients see their PCP and simply say “I’m depressed.” They receive an antidepressant medication. In reality, there may be a problem in their lives such as marital issues, abuse, addiction. Sometimes patients don’t disclose this to a primary care doctor, and the busy doctor may not always probe. Medication alone does not always get to the underlying issues that need to be resolved.
Here is a guide to help you get started:
- If you are suicidal and don’t know where to turn, the emergency room of your local hospital is always an option. They should be aware of psychiatric facilities in your area.
- The National Suicide Hotline number is 800-273-8255.
- If you live in a town with a medical school, they almost always have a department of psychiatry. You can start by calling them and asking about their outpatient clinic.
- You can google therapists in your area. Simply search therapists in (your city), for example type therapists in Louisville in your search bar. You will get a combination of mental health practitioners, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists.
- Psychiatrists can prescribe medication, make certain that there are no medical causes for your depression and provide counselling. Some psychiatrists mainly provide medication management and refer to social workers or psychologists for therapy.
- Psychologists and social workers provide psychotherapy (counselling) Some may specialize in seeing families or children. Most psychologists and social workers have a psychiatrist that they refer to if medication is needed. You can always start with a therapist and then see a psychiatrist for medication later if necessary.
Treatment works best when your providers collaborate. Your therapist, psychiatrist, and primary care doctor should be communicating with each other.
Don’t simply ignore your depression. It’s a signal, a red flag. Pay attention.