Treatment: When to Seek Professional Help and Where to Find Help for Major Depression

Brindusa Vanta, MD, DHMHS
Medical editor

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If you're feeling overwhelmed by depression, it's crucial to understand that you're not alone, and help is available. When depression deepens beyond a fleeting blue mood into a constant state that impairs your daily life, it's time to take urgent action. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Reach Out for Immediate Support: If you're in a crisis or feeling suicidal, don't wait. In the United States, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or text "HELLO" to 741741 for free, 24-hour support. 
  • Visit an Emergency Room: If you're in an acute crisis and feeling suicidal or believe you can't wait for an appointment, go to the nearest hospital emergency room. Here, you'll find professionals ready to provide prompt care and support.
  • Contact a Mental Health Professional: Schedule an appointment with a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist. They are equipped to offer treatments that can significantly improve your quality of life.
  • Lean on Your Support System: Reach out to friends, family, or community support groups. Sometimes, talking about what you're going through provides relief and a sense of connection.
  • Consider Therapeutic Options: Treatments of low-dose ketamine therapy have shown promise for those who haven't found relief through traditional methods. Discuss this with a healthcare provider to see if it's suitable for you.


It's important to recognize the signs that depression is becoming severe and to understand that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Immediate action can lead to the support and treatment necessary for recovery.

Understanding Depression

Understanding depression is key to recognizing when it's time to seek help. Depression, or Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), is a clinical condition marked by a prolonged period of profound sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest or pleasure in almost all activities. Unlike ordinary sadness, depression affects your daily life, impairing your ability to work, study, eat, sleep, and enjoy life. The symptoms must persist for at least 2 weeks for a diagnosis but often last much longer.

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Depression is not a weakness or something that a person can simply "snap out of." It's a complex disorder that involves a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors. Because of its complexity and the significant risks it poses, including the risk of suicide, professional intervention is essential.

Mental health professionals use a range of effective treatments to manage symptoms and support recovery. These treatments include psychotherapy, where individuals can explore their feelings and develop strategies to deal with them; medications such as antidepressants, which can help balance chemicals in the brain affected by depression; and lifestyle modifications, such as exercise and nutrition, which can have a positive impact on mental health.

For those whose depression does not respond to traditional treatments, innovative options such as ketamine therapy offer hope. Administered under medical supervision, low-dose ketamine has been found to provide rapid relief for some individuals with treatment-resistant depression.

Seeking help is a courageous step toward recovery. It's important to consult with a healthcare provider to understand the most appropriate treatment plan. Professional care is not just about managing symptoms; it's about regaining control of your life and finding a path to a more joyful, fulfilling existence.

When to Seek Professional Help

Everyone feels low and depressed now and then. How, then, are you supposed to know when your depressive symptoms have reached a point when professional help would be a good idea?

Here's a good rule of thumb: If your depressed mood lasts for more than 2 weeks; is seriously interfering with your ability to function at work, with your family, and in your social life; or is causing you to contemplate or plan to commit suicide, consult with a mental health professional as soon as possible.

This advice to seek out professional help counts double concerning any suicidal symptoms you may be experiencing. If you find yourself thinking about suicide, please make an appointment with a mental health doctor (a psychiatrist or psychologist) as soon as you can.

If you are feeling acutely suicidal—that you will end up committing suicide within hours or days unless you receive some relief—then bypass the advice about making an appointment with a doctor. Instead, take yourself immediately to your local hospital emergency room and tell them you are feeling suicidal. In such a case, there is no time to waste with appointments.

Ketamine Therapy

Dr. Brindusa Vanta, MD, says, "Several research studies suggest that low-dose ketamine shows promise in managing depression, including severe depression. It may benefit bipolar disorder, OCD, and certain anxiety  disorders."

Ketamine therapy has been shown to be effective in treating depression, particularly in individuals who have not responded to other treatments, such as antidepressants. If you are considering ketamine therapy for your depression, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider to see if it is an appropriate treatment option for you. Ketamine for depression is administered in a controlled clinical setting by a trained healthcare professional. Find a ketamine therapy clinic near you to get started.

As Dr. Brindusa Vanta, MD, says, "Esketamine, a derivative of the ketamine, is an FDA-approved medicine for treatment-resistant depression. It is approved as add-on therapy, along with antidepressants, and requires professional supervision."

Where To Find Help

Listed below are examples of the types of professionals and institutions that can offer you help for depression. The list is presented in the best order of search. The professions and institutions listed toward the top of this list will be more directly able to help you. Those listed at the bottom of the list will be able to provide you with appropriate referrals to other mental health professionals.

  • Mental health specialists, including:

  • Psychiatrists
  • Clinical psychologists
  • Social workers
  • Licensed mental health counselors

  • Your family doctor
  • Your employer-provided Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
  • Nearby university or medical school-affiliated mental health clinics
  • Your local hospital
  • Community mental health centers
  • Clergy
  • Your Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO) or Health Insurance company

It may be most comfortable to work with a therapist, doctor, or other health professional who has been recommended by someone you trust. For this reason, don't be shy about asking your friends or doctor for therapists they recommend.If you are truly unsure where to go for help, you can access referral services that will help you find local caregivers. Our own searchable database of North American therapists is available here, and our listing of support groups is here. You can also contact professional societies and state licensure boards to see if they offer therapist or doctor referrals (Click here for licensure boards.) As a last resort, you can always search online with keywords such as "mental health near me," "suicide prevention," "crisis intervention," "therapists near me," "physicians," or "hospitals." In times of crisis, including a suicidal crisis, the emergency room doctors at your local hospital will be able to provide temporary help. They should be able to offer referrals so that you can set up a more permanent care situation.

Additional Resources

As advocates of mental health and wellness, we take great pride in educating our readers on the various online therapy providers available. MentalHelp has partnered with several thought leaders in the mental health and wellness space, so we can help you make informed decisions on your wellness journey. MentalHelp may receive marketing compensation from these companies should you choose to use their services.

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