The success rate for treating depressed patients of all ages is about 80 percent—a figure that would be even more encouraging were it not for the fact that fewer than half of those suffering from it are ever diagnosed and treated. 
Treatment of depression takes three major forms—medication, psychotherapy and electroconvulsive therapy. All three have proven effective for large numbers of patients.
Medication for depression is directed at reversing changes in brain chemistry that accompany the condition. Whether these changes are causes or effects of depression is still the subject of some debate, though the majority opinion among researchers is that they are at least a significant part of the cause. That position is supported by the fact that depression usually lifts once the brain chemistry deficits are corrected. There are several major classes of antidepressant medications:
While medication has steadily grown as a first-line treatment for depression, it is often accompanied by psychotherapy. Some depressed patients are successfully treated with psychotherapy alone. There are several forms of psychotherapy used in the treatment of mood disorders:
If medication and/or psychotherapy prove unsuccessful in breaking the hold of severe, suicidal depression, a third approach, electroconvulsive therapy, may succeed. Just why causing the patient to experience the neurological effects of a seizure provides relief from severe depression isn’t known. But it is successful in 70 percent of those to whom it is administered.
The treatment, once called electroshock therapy, has been represented in movies and elsewhere as a rather violent and crude approach to treatment in which the patient is strapped to a table and given a heavy jolt of electricity to create convulsions rivaling a grand mal epileptic seizure. That representation of it is profoundly inaccurate and out of date.
Today the patient is given a general anesthetic and a paralytic drug to relax muscles. A brief, carefully controlled pulse of electrical current is applied through electrodes placed on the scalp. The immediate aftereffects reported by patients upon awakening are usually limited to short-term confusion and memory loss relating to the period of the treatment, which clears up in about an hour.
There may also be residual memory loss for events dating back about six months before the period of the treatment, and some impairment in learning new information. Both effects typically disappear within a few months. In a small percentage of patients, there may be more persistent memory problems. That risk can be reduced by placing both electrodes on one side of the head. But this unilateral approach doesn’t have as great or rapid a therapeutic effect as the bilateral approach, with an electrode on each side of the head. 
Where to Get Help
One of depression’s effects is to leave its victims so exhausted and despairing that they lack the energy and will even to seek help. The depressed person frequently discourages himself or herself by assuming that the family doctor, clergyman or other source of counsel won’t know how to deal with depression. Perhaps not. But they will almost certainly be able to refer you to someone who can.
Here are some sources to approach in seeking help for depression:
 Adapted from Depression, NIH Publication 00-3561, 2000, p. 8
 Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General, 2001, Chap. 4, p. 11, available at http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/mentalhealth/home.html; accessed 28 June 2004
 Information on antidepressant and antimanic medication is drawn from Physicians' Desk Reference, 58th edition. Montvale, New Jersey: The Thompson Corporation, 2004, available at http://www.pdrhealth.com; accessed 6 July 2004, The Depression Guide, available at http://www.afraidtoask.com/depression; Accessed 7 July 2004, Psychiatric Medicines for Mental Illness: Antimanic Medications; available at http://www.healthyplace.com/, accessed 7 July 2004
 Material on psychotherapy drawn from Erbaugh SE, The Attributes of Psychotherapy for Depression, et. seq., available at http://www.healthyplace.com/; 1995, accessed 7 July 2004; Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General, 2001, Chap. 4, pp 7-8, available at http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/mentalhealth/; accessed 28 June 2004
 ; Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General, 2001, Chap. 4, pp 14-18, available at http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/mentalhealth/; accessed 28 June 2004