Depression: What help is available?

Photo of someone talking to a therapist

People with tend to turn to their family doctor for help first. There are also other doctors and therapists and various tools and service providers that can help.

They’re listed below though it’s important to remember that different things are available in different regions.

The type of help a person needs depends on their personal situation. Factors include things like how severe their depression is, what symptoms they have and when they started.

Who can I ask for help?

Family doctors are often the first place people turn to for medical help with mental health problems. The doctor’s team coordinate the treatment with other health care providers. They also refer the patient to other providers, like practices or clinics for psychiatric treatment or psychotherapy.

Parents of children and teenagers usually ask a pediatrician for help first. If the pediatrician thinks the child might have , they refer them to another health care provider and coordinate the treatment.

Psychotherapists can be doctors or psychologists. They diagnose and provide treatment, including cognitive behavioral therapy and psychoanalysis. Some of them are specialized in treating children and teenagers.

Psychiatrists have medical training and can prescribe medication as well as being able to diagnose . Some of them also offer psychotherapy; some are specialized in treating children and teenagers.

Good to know:

The Federal Association of Statutory Insurance Physicians ("Kassenärztliche Bundesvereinigung" – KBV) has a website with a searchable database of family doctors, specialized doctors, and therapists.

Who can support me during my illness?

Social psychiatric services provide support for people living with . They also coordinate various support services. They supply information, make home visits, and organize medical assistance and therapy – especially in crisis situations.

Special psychiatric services for children and young people provide support for young people and their families. They organize additional help and also offer advisory services – to schools, for instance.

Sociotherapists help people with severe mental health disorders to live their life as independently as possible and avoid having to go to hospital. They help them cope with the illness, attend medical appointments, and look after themselves and others. They also help them deal with official matters and in meetings with health insurers and health care providers.

Occupational therapists help people to live their lives as independently as possible and to look after themselves. The therapy can help people who have with things like structuring their day, coping with day-to-day life, and continuing to work as far as possible.

Sports therapists help with physical symptoms of , like pain. Sports and exercise can also reduce the mental health symptoms.

Psychiatric home care providers support people with mental health disorders at home. This care is also intended to help avoid hospital treatment. If hygiene care is needed, standard nursing care services are an option too.

Who can answer my questions?

Germany has special organizations that children, teenagers, and their parents can contact for emergency help in crisis situations like when there’s a serious conflict or risk of suicide. These organizations are run by the local councils and can be contacted 24/7.

Psychosocial support and information centers provide advice to people of all ages on various questions to do with coping with the illness. They also help in crisis situations and organize additional support. They can provide advice anonymously on request. These centers are run by various different providers, including the Diakonie, Caritas, and Arbeiterwohlfahrt welfare organizations and the German Red Cross.

The statutory pension funds run support and information centers that can advise people on whether medical rehabilitation is an option for them. The EUTB service answers questions relating to rehabilitation and participation too.

Support groups offer a way for people with and their families to talk to and help other people facing the same issues. There’s a database of groups like this on the website run by NAKOS, a Germany-wide provider of information to do with self-help.

Where is treatment for depression provided?

At doctors’ or therapists’ practices: They can diagnose and treat . Depending on the situation, this is done at a family doctor’s practice or at a practice specialized in, for example, psychotherapy.

In psychiatric and psychosomatic outpatient departments: These departments are located in hospitals or health care centers and can be the first step in getting a and treatment for the illness. Some of them only offer and counseling; some provide a full program of treatment themselves.

In hospitals: If the person’s symptoms are severe, spending some time in hospital or in a specialized clinic can be useful. There are psychiatric, psychosomatic, and psychotherapy clinics, for instance, that can provide treatment for Some general hospitals have psychiatric departments too. There are also outpatient clinics for people with . They go there during the day and go home at night.

What rehabilitation support is available to help people stay socially active and continue working?

The main aim of medical rehabilitation is to help the person to carry on working and to cope with their illness. Rehabilitation programs can be on an inpatient or an outpatient basis. To find out more, contact the umbrella organization for statutory pensions funds in Germany: Deutsche Rentenversicherung.

Returning to work is possible on the basis of the “Hamburg model,” which enables the person to start working again gradually and with support. Germany also has various types of vocational training center to help people find (re-)training courses and help for returning to work.

Home support is provided by social psychiatric services, psychiatric home care providers, sociotherapists, and others. They visit the person at home and help them with their day-to-day life.

Special housing programs: People with mental health problems sometimes live in special housing where they live in a group and have people to support them. These housing programs can be temporary or permanent. They give them a protected space where they can get counseling and other assistance. The residents are given help to look after themselves as far as possible.

How can “Digital Health Applications” help?

Digital Health Applications (DiGAs) are designed to help diagnose, monitor and treat certain illnesses. Most of them are apps for mobile devices or computers but some are browser-based tools.

DiGAs are assessed and certified by Germany’s Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM). This means they meet certain requirements to do with things like data privacy and content quality. They’re covered by statutory health insurance in Germany and can be prescribed by doctors or psychotherapists. There are a number of DiGAs aimed at helping people cope with .

Who can help in an acute crisis?

If a person’s symptoms are so severe that they’ll need help in the next few days, they or their family can contact the following:

  • Social psychiatric services
  • Psychiatric services for children and young people
  • Psychosocial support and information centers
  • Psychiatric outpatient departments
  • Doctors’ or therapists’ practices

In Germany, the following can be contacted for urgent help:

  • Psychiatric practices that offer out-of-hours services or psychiatric drop-in centers
  • Out-of-hours medical services (116117)
  • Emergency services (112 in Germany and many other countries, 911 in the U.S.)
  • The local emergency help services for children and young people (Kinder- und Jugendnotdienst)
  • A telephone counseling hotline called “Telefonseelsorge” (0800 111 0 111 or 0800 111 0 222)
  • A telephone counseling hotline for children and teenagers, called “Nummer gegen Kummer” (116 111)
  • A telephone counseling hotline for parents, called “Nummer gegen Kummer” (0800 11 10 55 0)

If someone is actually thinking of committing suicide, it’s important to get help fast help. The German Society for Suicide Prevention (DGS) has a list of places that people can contact for help.

Where can I get more information?

Additional information is available on the following websites:

For detailed information on the psychotherapeutic support available, read our information “A guide to psychotherapy in Germany: Where can I find help?

Bundesärztekammer, Kassenärztliche Bundesvereinigung (KBV), Arbeitsgemeinschaft der wissenschaftlichen medizinischen Fachgesellschaften (AWMF). Nationale Versorgungsleitlinie Unipolare Depression. AWMF-Registernr.: nvl-005. 2022.

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie, Psychosomatik und Nervenheilkunde (DGPPN). Psychenet. Netz psychische Gesundheit: Hilfe finden. 2023.

IQWiG health information is written with the aim of helping people understand the advantages and disadvantages of the main treatment options and health care services.

Because IQWiG is a German institute, some of the information provided here is specific to the German health care system. The suitability of any of the described options in an individual case can be determined by talking to a doctor. can provide support for talks with doctors and other medical professionals, but cannot replace them. We do not offer individual consultations.

Our information is based on the results of good-quality studies. It is written by a team of health care professionals, scientists and editors, and reviewed by external experts. You can find a detailed description of how our health information is produced and updated in our methods.

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Please note that we do not provide individual advice on matters of health. You can read about where to find help and support in Germany in our information “How can I find self-help groups and information centers?

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Created on April 15, 2024

Next planned update: 2027


Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany)

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