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What Are My Alternatives? Self-help and Complementary Therapies

posted Jul 8, 2013, 3:13 PM by Megan Black   [ updated Jul 8, 2013, 3:13 PM by Tascheleia Marangoni ]

            There are numerous treatments and therapies available to help cope with perinatal mood disorders. However, according to an Australian study, only 50% of Australians who are depressed receive evidence-based professional interventions and perhaps the same percentage applies to Canadians. So… what are the other 50% of depressed Australians doing to cope with their symptoms? Australians have reported that they prefer to use self-help and complementary therapies to treat depression.

            A self-help treatment is defined as “a treatment that can be used by a person without necessarily consulting a healthcare professional,” (eg: bibliotherapy & exercise). In contrast, a complementary therapy is “a treatment that involves practices and beliefs that are not generally upheld by the dominant health system in Western countries.” There are several self-help and complementary therapies available to the public, yet which ones are effective to help treat depressive disorders?

            A meta-analysis report by Jorm et al, analyzed and compared 37 different treatments for depression. The 37 different treatments were grouped under the categories; medicines, physical treatments, lifestyle and dietary changes.


·      Ginkgo biloba

·      Glutamine

·      Homoeopathy

·      Natural progesterone

·      Phenylalanine

·      S-Adenosylmethionine

·      St John’s wort

·      Selenium

·      Tyrosine

·      Vitamins

o   Folate, B vitamins, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E

Physical Treatments:

·      Acupuncture

·      Air ionization

·      Light therapy

·      Massage


·      Aromatherapy

·      Bibliotherapy

·      Dance and movement

·      Exercise

·      LeShan distance healing

·      Meditation

·      Music

·      Pets

·      Pleasant activities

·      Relaxation therapy

·      Yoga

Dietary Changes:

·      Alcohol avoidance

·      Alcohol for relaxation

·      Caffeine avoidance

·      Fish oils

·      Sugar avoidance

The study by Jorm et al. found that the self-help and complementary therapies with the best evidence of effectiveness included St. Johns Wort, physical exercise, self-help books involving cognitive behavior therapy and light therapy (winter depression). There was limited evidence to support the effectiveness of acupuncture, message therapy, negative air ionization, relaxation therapy, S- adenosylmethionine, folate, yoga breathing exercises and light therapy (non-seasonal depression). The aforementioned treatments may be effective, however such therapies have received very little research attention. Furthermore, a lot of the research on self-help and complementary therapies focus on patients suffering from mild to moderate depression. More research is necessary to incorporate perinatal mood disorders, especially for those mothers who want to avoid taking antidepressants (or any medication) while breastfeeding.