Other treatments for depression
When depression is severe and medication has failed
and/or the risk of suicide is high, other therapies are
Electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, is used when attempts to treat severe depression
through medication have not been effective. Done in a hospital, usually at a rate of
three treatments per week, electroconvulsive therapy involves sending a carefully
controlled electric current to the brain. This current then induces a seizure.
Because patients are given anesthesia and muscle relaxants, they are not awake during
the procedure and do not experience any sensations or body movements.
Having greatly improved since it was first used, electroconvulsive therapy
is recognized today as an effective and humane treatment for mental illness. It
is quick acting, and improvements are usually noted after only a few treatments.
Generally, patients require between 8 to 12 treatments.
Phototherapy (light therapy)
Often used in the treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), phototherapy
involves exposing a patient to special forms of bright light for a period of about
two hours a day. This exposure increases the production of certain chemicals in
the brain that relieve the symptoms of depression. This treatment is ineffective
when simply ordinary light is used and should only be administered by a trained
Dealing successfully with depression depends on early intervention and prompt
treatment. Because depressed people may occasionally have suicidal
thoughts, delusions, or hallucinations, patients are sometimes hospitalized.
Hospitalization allows health professionals to assess and diagnose a patient's
condition. Medications are started and support is given, thereby reducing the
risk of suicide and other harmful behaviors. The care received in a hospital
setting can help patients begin to deal with the problems contributing to their
Following hospitalization, patients often need time to recuperate both
mentally and physically. This means ensuring proper rest, good nutrition,
regular exercise, and concentrating on reducing stress.
Because family roles and responsibilies often shift when a patient is
hospitalized, the return home may require some adjustments. Family members may
be reluctant to relinquish responsibility to the patient out of fear he or she
may suffer a relapse. Conversely, some families may expect too much and may
expect life to return to normal right away. It's important that everyone
in the family clearly state his or her expectactions. Patience, understanding,
and support are also very important.
For some patients, alternative housing may be needed to ease the transition
from an ordered environment to a less structured one — a transition that
could otherwise cause problems if the patient is returning to an unstructured
and isolated environment. Halfway-houses, participation in a day program, or
living in supported housing are all ways of making the transition more
Early release is a sad fact of today's health care system. Often, patients
are released from hospital much sooner than in the past and sometimes before
they are completely ready. If you or the person you're caring for has been
released from hospital after only a short stay, the following suggestions will
- Ask questions and be sure to discuss your concerns with hospital staff
working with you on the discharge plan. Ask specific questions about what to
expect after release and what type of support will be needed.
- Be sure you fully understand what symptoms or changes in condition should
- Request a list of resource people and telephone numbers to call if you
have concerns or questions. Community-based support professionals provide
support and treatment for people after they've been hospitalized.