Aging & Health A to Z
Lifestyle & Management
Support groups for depression are groups of people who have been diagnosed with depression. Members of these groups get support from others by talking about their experiences in a welcoming environment. Support groups may be organized by nonprofit organizations, mental health clinics, or even an interested individual. They may involve regular meetings in person, on the internet, or by phone. Support groups are not the same as group counseling (psychotherapy), in which a psychologist or other mental health provider offers therapy to a group of people.
If you are depressed, a support group can:
- Help you make connections with others so that you feel less alone
- Introduce you to new coping skills that have helped others in the group
- Encourage you to stick to your treatment plan
- Help you realize that being depressed is nothing to be embarrassed about – it can happen to anyone
- Learn what to do when you have medication side effects
- Find out about community resources for people with depression who live in your area.
Finding the right support group may be challenging, so try to attend a few different ones until you find a good fit.
How to find a support group:
- Ask your doctor, therapist, or other healthcare professional for a recommendation.
- Contact a local, state or national mental health organization, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
- Search the internet or the yellow pages of your phone book for terms such as ”mental health” and “counseling.”
- Check your local newspaper for support resources.
- Contact community centers or libraries.
- Ask friends or family for recommendations.
Lifestyle and Depression
Studies have found that people who eat a lot of junk food—processed, fatty, and sugary foods—are at greater risk of developing depression. On the other hand, people who follow a Mediterranean diet (eating a lot of fruits, vegetables, and fish) appear to be less likely to develop depression.
Vegetarians need to be particularly careful about getting enough B vitamins and minerals in their diets. This is especially the case if you are a vegan (someone who eat does not any animal products, such as eggs or dairy). If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, ask your healthcare provider whether you should be getting these supplements:
- Vitamin B6: You need vitamin B6 to produce normal levels of serotonin. Serotonin is one of the brain’s most important neurotransmitters and plays a key role in regulating mood. Vitamin B6 is found in beans, potatoes, bananas, meat, chicken, peanut butter, and fish such as salmon and tuna. The recommended intake for men older than 50 years of age is 1.7 mg per day, while women are advised to get 1.5 mg per day.
- Vitamin B 12: Vitamin B12 is found in meat, eggs, and dairy products. A lack of Vitamin B12 is linked to depression, fatigue, and an inability to concentrate. Supplements and fortified foods can provide the 25-100 micrograms older adults need daily. Older adults are particularly prone to vitamin B12 deficiency.
- Iron: An iron deficiency may also make you feel tired and contribute to depression. Iron is mainly found in meat, but you should also be able to get an adequate supply of iron from a balanced vegetarian diet that includes plenty of dark green leafy vegetables and legumes.
Exercise and Depression
When you’re depressed and short on energy, the idea of exercising can be discouraging. But recent research finds that exercise can help treat depression, as well as keep it from getting worse once you feel better. Just 30 minutes of exercise counts. This can include walking, gardening, or even washing the car. Doing this kind of activity three times a week can make a real difference.
Exercise appears to help for a variety of reasons. Among other things, it triggers the release of brain chemicals associated with feelings of well-being.
Here are some tips for getting started:
- If you will be starting moderate-level exercise and don’t have any health problems that would prevent you from exercising, you do not need to check in with your healthcare provider first. Of course, if you have any concerns, you should always mention them to your provider.
- Figure out what physical activities you enjoy.
- View exercise as one of your valuable tools for feeling better and becoming healthier.
Updated: September 2017
Posted: March 2012