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Depression – Guide for the public

Key points about depression

Depression is often associated with feeling sad or tearful. Experiencing these feelings does not necessarily mean someone is suffering depression.

Clinical depression is one of the most common serious mental disorders, with about one in five people experiencing clinical depression at some point in their lives. Clinical depression lasts for at least two weeks and can be very disabling, affecting a person’s emotions, thinking, behaviour and physical wellbeing. Someone who suffers clinical depression is often not able to get better without treatment.

With effective treatment, time and support, people can recover from clinical depression.

Depression is a serious condition that causes many people to be disabled, experience other physical complications and even to suffer premature death through accident or suicide.

If you think that you or a member of your family may be depressed, you can ask your general practitioner (GP) for an assessment, which may include referral to a psychiatrist or psychologist.

Effective treatment may include ‘talking therapies’ such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and other psychological therapies and/or anti-depressant medications.

There is a range of other strategies to assist in the treatment of depression, such as diet, exercise and alternative medicines. Medical treatments and other strategies can be adapted to the individual and are often mutually enhancing.

It is common practice for families and carers to be involved in providing support to those suffering

depression. Many services are available to support families and carers.

Treating depression early is important to get the best outcomes.

Some people are at higher risk of developing depression, and certain events during people’s lives can also increase a person’s risk of suffering depression.

More information

The RANZCP has developed the following guides for members of the public interested in depression.

Get the Coping with depression guide for consumers and carers - Australian version [PDF; 700 KB]

Get the Coping with depression guide for consumers and carers - New Zealand version [PDF; 712 KB]

These guides were written by mental health specialists, based on the best available evidence and with extensive input from consumer and carer representatives.

These guides can:

  • help you to make decisions about treatment
  • outline the value of treatment and what to expect at critical times such as diagnosis, admission and discharge
  • inform you of your rights
  • outline the standard of services you can expect.


Interested in information for clinicians? Visit the Statements and Guidelines page.