Skip to main content

Warning notification:Warning

Unfortunately, you are using an outdated browser. Please, upgrade your browser to improve your experience with HSE. The list of supported browsers:

  1. Chrome
  2. Edge
  3. FireFox
  4. Opera
  5. Safari

Treatment - Clinical depression

Treatment for depression can involve a combination of:

  • self-help
  • talking therapies
  • medicines

Treatment will depend on the type of depression you have and its severity.

Mild depression

The following treatments are available for mild depression.

Physical activity

Physical activity is one of the main treatments for mild depression.

Physical activity and your mental health

Self-help groups

Talking through your feelings can be helpful. You could talk to a friend or relative, or you can ask your GP to suggest a local self-help group.

Your GP may also recommend self-help books and online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

CBT helps you manage problems by thinking in a more balanced way. It can help you change unhelpful thought patterns and behaviour.

Find out more about CBT

It may improve

If you're diagnosed with mild depression, it may improve over time. Your GP will usually check up on you in 2 weeks. You can follow up if this does not happen.

Mild to moderate depression

Your GP may refer you to talking therapy for mild or moderate depression.

There are different types of talking therapy for mild to moderate depression. For example, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and counselling.

Your GP can refer you or you can refer yourself to your own psychological therapy. Make sure the therapist is accredited by a professional body such as the:

  • Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI)
  • Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (IACP)

Moderate to severe depression

The following treatments are for moderate to severe depression.


Antidepressants are tablets that treat the symptoms of depression. There are almost 30 different types of antidepressant. Your GP will prescribe these.

Find out more about antidepressants

Talking treatments

Your GP may refer you to talking therapy for moderate to severe depression.

Talking therapies

Combination therapy

Your GP may recommend that you take a course of antidepressants plus talking therapy.

For moderate to severe depression, an antidepressant and CBT usually works better than 1 treatment on its own.

Mental health teams

You may be referred to a mental health team.

They could include:

  • psychologists
  • psychiatrists
  • specialist nurses
  • occupational therapists

These teams often provide intensive specialist talking treatments as well as prescribed medicine.

Other treatments


Mindfulness involves paying close attention to the present moment. You focus on your thoughts, feelings, sensations and the world around you.

The aim is to develop a better understanding of your mind and body. You try to learn how to live with more appreciation and less anxiety.

It is recommended for preventing depression, if you have had 3 or more bouts of depression.

Find out more about mindfulness

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)

Brain stimulation can treat severe depression. It is used when the depression has not responded to other treatments.

There are different types of brain stimulation. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is the most common.

During ECT an electric current passes to the brain through electrodes placed on the head.

ECT is always carried out under a general anaesthetic in a hospital by a specialist doctor.


Lithium can be used with antidepressants. It can be used for reducing suicidal behaviour and as a mood stabiliser. It is used to prevent and manage mania in bipolar.

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

Page last reviewed: 1 September 2022
Next review due: 1 September 2025