Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences

Original Articles

What to do about depression? Help-seeking and treatment recommendations of the public

A. Holzingera1 c1, H. Matschingera2 and M.C. Angermeyera3a4

a1 Department of Psychiatry, Medical University Vienna, Austria

a2 Department of Psychiatry, University of Leipzig, Germany

a3 Center for Public Mental Health, Gösing am Wagram, Austria

a4 Department of Public Health, University of Cagliari, Italy


Aims. Several population studies on beliefs about depression carried out in western countries during the 1990s have shown that the public clearly favors psychotherapy over antidepressant medication. The present study examines whether this phenomenon still exists at the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century.

Materials and Methods. In 2009, a telephone survey was conducted among the population of Vienna aged 16 years and older (n = 1205). A fully structured interview was administered which began with the presentation of a vignette depicting a case of depression fulfilling the diagnostic criteria of DSM-IV for a moderate depressive episode.

Results. Psychotherapists were most frequently endorsed as source of professional help. Antidepressant medication still was more frequently advised against than recommended. Respondents familiar with the treatment of depression tended to be more ready to recommend to seek help from mental health professionals and to endorse various treatment options, particularly medication.

Conclusion. At the end of the first decade of this century, there still exists a large gap between the public's beliefs and what mental health professionals consider appropriate for the treatment of depression. Therefore, further effort to improve the public's mental health literacy seems necessary.

(Received March 31 2010)

(Revised June 14 2010)

(Accepted June 17 2010)

(Online publication March 18 2011)


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr Anita Holzinger, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Medical University Vienna, Währinger Gürtel 18–20, A-1090 Wien, Austria. (Email: anita.holzinger@meduniwien.ac.at)