How to treat Depression & Anxiety

There are treatments that can help you

Health professionals have a range of ways they can help you get on top of the way you are thinking, feeling or behaving. This can make it easier for you to start dealing with the issues in your life. It’s important that you find the treatment, or mix, that’s right for you.


Your doctor or psychiatrist may suggest medication for your depression or anxiety.

It’s important you know as much as you can about the medications they suggest. This lets you decide for yourself whether they’re right for you. Don’t be shy about asking lots of questions.

For many people, the right medication can be very helpful. But keep in mind that while the medication can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, they won’t fix whatever might be going on in your life that might have been affecting your mood. It can be very helpful to get professional help for dealing with those issues.

If you’re concerned about taking medication, talk (kōrero) to someone you trust. A psychologist or counsellor can probably help answer some questions. However, it’s the job of the person who prescribes the medication to clearly explain:

  • what symptoms it should help with
  • how long it will take to work
  • how long you will need to take it
  • possible side effects
  • how to stop taking them safely

Sometimes it takes a while to find the right medication that works for you. It can also take a couple of weeks for some medication to work, so give it a bit of time. If the side effects are too much, tell your doctor. There is likely to be something else you can try. Also, you should talk to your doctor or psychiatrist before you stop taking medication, even if you feel like they just aren’t right for you. The side effects of stopping suddenly can include anxiety, insomnia, vivid dreams, headaches, dizziness, tiredness, irritability, flu-like symptoms, nausea and return of symptoms.

If you’re unsure of anything, or worried, ask questions. Pharmacists can provide good information about various medications. 

Talking Therapies

Talking therapy involves talking to someone about your problems and addressing them in a range of ways. They will spend some time understanding your situation and work with you to decide on the right therapy that works for you. 

Talking therapies focus on the ways you currently deal with particular issues in your life. You then get help to find new ways to approach your challenges. These can include practical action plans or positive thinking techniques. This means that a talking therapy programme will often involve doing activities and talking about how you’re doing. 

Because therapy is often trying to change longstanding ways of thinking or behaving for a long time, you’re likely to need several sessions. This will give you time to make the changes and observe what happens.

While each therapy may begin with a particular focus, they all involve talking about how you feel, how this affects how you behave and how you relate to others. Being as open and honest as you can will help. This isn’t always easy to do, but the more you share with your health professional the better they can help. Have a look at this guide to learn more about talking therapies. 

Traditional medicine

There are tohunga or healers in our communities you can go to for rongoā Māori services that offer: 

  • mirimiri (massage)
  • karakia and pastoral support
  • rakau rongoā (native flora herbal preparations)
  • whitiwhiti kōrero (cultural support).

Rongoā Māori is traditional Māori healing approach. It includes herbal or medicinal remedies, physical therapies that are similar to massage and manipulation (like mirimiri or romiromi) and spiritual healing.  


Complementary medicines

There is a range of other complementary medicines that have research showing they can help. Talk to your pharmacist or health professional about dosages or side effects:

  • St John’s Wort is sometimes used as an alternative to antidepressants. It can be helpful in mild to moderate depression. Because it’s a natural product, its strength varies quite a bit between tablets. The required dose is usually 1500-3000 mg of the dried herb.
  • Omega-3 Fish Oil has been shown to be effective in many people with depression. It can be taken at the same time as antidepressants and may make them more effective. The most effective dose is enough to get 1000 mg of the EPA fraction. (See label for amount of EPA per cap. Higher strength brands are available and mean taking less capsules to get the effective dose)
  • S-Adenosyl Methionine is another supplement that has been shown to be an effective antidepressant and to have increased the effectiveness of antidepressants.  Start with 400 mg daily and increase to 800 mg if required.

Check out this link on Complementary Alternative Medicines for more information about their effectiveness and other options that can help. 

What next?

Once you are feeling better, it's a great time to learn how to maintain your wellness.

Learn to stay well

Other people's stories

I created a safe space

I take my medication and attend therapy

I learnt new strategies

I connect with family