Depression – what to do?

Depression is extremely debilitating and has far-reaching consequences. The sooner it is treated, the better. These therapies and points of contact can help.

29.10.2021 Daniela Schori

Depression is the most common mental illness. A wide range of therapies that use different treatment methods is available. Here are the key points:

  • Good treatment should be carried out by specialist and include therapy.
  • The earlier depression is treated, the easier and more successful the therapy.
  • Early treatment reduces the risk for recurring episodes (recurrent depression).
  • It is also important to explain the illness to relatives and include them in the process. 

Does every type of depression have to be treated?

Under certain circumstances, mild depression goes away by itself. However, without treatment, the illness lasts longer, can recur again at a later point in time or can become chronic. The decisive factor is the level of suffering: how much does the illness impact the affected person’s work, everyday life and free time? Professional help for depression is required when the life of the affected person and their relatives is severely impacted or if they have suicidal thoughts.

Do you think that you might be depressed? Our self-test can help you to get a better idea of the situation. 

Depression test – do these warning signs apply to you?

Professional help for depression

General practitioner

  • The first point of contact for suspected depression: for diagnostic consultation, physical examination
  • Makes a diagnosis, presents treatment options
  • Treats mild depression, prescribes psychotherapy when required


  • A specialist for mental illnesses with expert knowledge of the origin, diagnosis and treatment of depression
  • Treatment with medication and psychotherapy


  • Psychologist with therapeutic training
  • In psychotherapy, patients learn new strategies for managing their life (e.g. behaviour therapy)
  • Cannot prescribe medication

Psychiatric clinic

  • In the case of severe depression with severe symptoms, such as risk of suicide
  • Treated with medication and psychotherapy, range of therapies
  • Length of stay is generally four to eight weeks
  • Outpatient therapy also possible (day/week stays)

How can depression be treated?

Depending on the level of severity, treatment usually combines psychotherapy and antidepressants. Complementary medicine such as acupuncture, shiatsu, herbal medicine and relaxation techniques for dealing with stress, such as mindfulness training (MBSR), are measures that can help. 

More on MBSR and other relaxation techniques

In addition, many people affected by depression find physical and creative forms of therapy, such as art, creative, movement and music therapy, helpful. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options. Our health consultation team will be happy to help you. Please note that not all types of therapy are covered by your insurance.

Do you need tips for depression?

Our health consultation advisors will show you how you can recognise, prevent and treat depression. We’ll also help you find a recognised therapist.

More information about the health consultation service


Psychotherapy treats mental problems that disrupt a person’s thoughts, feelings and actions. It can be carried out either as inpatient or outpatient treatment at a clinic, individually or in a group.

There are various types of psychotherapy. Every type of therapy is based on its own theory and has different treatment approaches. Behaviour therapy is one of the most common and researched psychotherapies. It involves finding new strategies for solving problems and practising beneficial behaviours. Other types of therapy include psychodynamic psychotherapy and systemic therapy.

Who pays for psychotherapy?

Basic insurance pays for 40 sessions of medical or delegated psychotherapy carried out by a psychiatrist or a psychotherapist employed by them. For non-medical psychotherapy, you need supplementary insurance; it must be medically prescribed, and the therapist must be recognised by Helsana:

  • TOP: pays 75 % of the costs up to a maximum of CHF 3,000 per calendar year
  • COMPLETA: pays 75% of the costs up to a maximum of CHF 4,500 per calendar year 


Specialists prescribe antidepressants mostly for moderate to severe depression. Antidepressants ensure that the body gets the substances it needs that are important for its functioning, and ones that are often lacking when someone is depressed, primarily serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline. Depending on the compound, they can have a motivating, mood-lifting, anxiolytic or calming effect. Antidepressants are always used in combination with psychotherapeutic measures.

Herbal antidepressants

The mood-lifting St. John’s wort is used to treat mild to moderate depression. Similar to chemical antidepressants, it balances the transmitters in the central nervous system. St. John’s wort can have side-effects with other medications, such as the contraceptive pill, and it cannot be combined with other antidepressants. Consult your doctor before taking St. John’s wort.

Light therapy

Light therapy can help with winter depression. Seasonal depression occurs in autumn and winter when the days are shorter and we get less sunlight. Because our bodies produce more of the sleep hormone melatonin when it is dark, we feel more tired during the day. Daylight increases the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin and ensures that the body produces less melatonin.

When daily walks in the fresh air are no longer enough, light therapy can be a good option. There are special daylight therapy lamps that have at least 10,000 lux. Light therapy involves looking at a light every morning for at least 30 minutes during the winter.

Does depression make you unable to work?

This depends on the symptoms, how the depression progresses and the individual situation of the person affected.  Keep aware of yourself and others – and if you suspect depression, get help. Discuss any symptoms with your doctor.  

These symptoms are signs of depression

Counselling services (in German) Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Angst & Depression (in German) Die dargebotene Hand: Telefon 143 (in German) Pro Mente Sana (in German) Kinder- und Jugendberatung Pro Juventute: Telefon 147 (in German)

Self-help groups (also for relatives)

Verein zur Bewältigung von Depressionen (in German) VASK Schweiz (in German) (in German) Stiftung Selbsthilfe Schweiz (in German)

Read more

Am I depressed?
Find out the most common symptoms and causes of depression. Our self-test will show you if you might be depressed.
October 29, 2021 4 minutes

The most common types of depression
There’s not just one kind of depression. Alongside normal depression, there are also other types. You can find out more here.
October 29, 2021 4 minutes




Find out more about current health issues and get all the information you need about our attractive offers, delivered by e-mail to read whenever it suits you. Our newsletter is free of charge and you can sign up here:


Thank you for registering.
You have just received an email with a confirmation link. Please click on this to complete your registration.

Unfortunately an error has occurred.

We did not receive your information. Please try again later or call our customer services on 0844 80 81 82.