\u201cThings will never get better.\u201d \u00a0\u201cI\u2019m worthless.\u201d \u00a0\u201cI\u2019ll never be happy.\u201d If these statements sound familiar, you may be struggling with depression. \u00a0One of the most prevalent psychiatric disorders, depression afflicts nearly 7 million Americans annually. Almost one-third of these cases are classified as severe, and they are the ones in which feelings of hopelessness are most likely to occur. Hopelessness and Suicide Risk Depression is quite treatable in most cases. Sadly, though, far too many depressed individuals never seek treatment or lack the resources to get the help they need.\u00a0 The potential consequences of untreated depression can be devastating for you and those close to you. People living with depression have a much higher risk for suicide than non-depressed individuals. Experts estimate that every year up to 90% of the nation\u2019s 37,000 suicides are linked to diagnosable mental health conditions, such as clinical depression. The hopelessness that often accompanies depression is one of the warning signs that a person may be in danger of attempting suicide. \u00a0In fact, most depressed individuals who attempt or successfully commit suicide were experiencing a profound sense of hopelessness. Find Professional Treatment Clinical depression is a serious problem that requires professional treatment. No one should handle depression on their own. One of the biggest advantages of working with a mental health professional is that he or she can help you learn to manage and, in many cases, alleviate your depressive symptoms. Tools he or she may use to help you include: \tTherapy: Psychotherapy is the foundation of any treatment plan to relieve feelings of hopelessness. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective types of therapy used to treat depression.\u00a0 This particular approach helps you become aware of the disordered thinking and behaviors triggered by your depression. You\u2019ll learn to recognize these negative thoughts and essentially \u201cre-program\u201d them. For example, a depressed person might think: I\u2019ve had two years of therapy in the past, and it didn\u2019t help at all.\u00a0 I\u2019ll always be depressed. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help you \u201creframe\u201d irrational thinking patterns like this.\u00a0 For example, rather than assume that your situation is hopeless, you\u2019ll challenge the thought and may change it to: Even though two previous years of therapy wasn\u2019t helpful, I\u2019m working with a new therapist now using a new approach that has helped many people.\u00a0 Perhaps I can get better, too. The result is a more positive outlook that doesn\u2019t generate strong negative feelings of hopelessness. Therapy often takes place in a one-on-one setting, but it may also occur with a small group of people experiencing the same issues. Both individual and group therapy can be very beneficial for treating depression. \tMedications: Antidepressants are believed to benefit depression by helping to rebalance brain chemistry.\u00a0 They generally work best when used in conjunction with therapy, rather than as the sole form of treatment. \u00a0There are several types of medication used to treat depression, with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) being the most frequently prescribed. Your physician can recommend a medication based on your medical history and symptoms.\u00a0 It may take several weeks for an antidepressant to be fully effective, so patience is important.\u00a0 Remember, medications are only one part of depression treatment, but, for those with moderate to severe depression, they may help reduce symptoms so you can focus on therapy. Make Lifestyle Changes Professional treatment is a critical part of treating depression, but other strategies can help improve your mood and increase your quality of life as well. Your therapist may recommend some of the following lifestyle changes or activities to reduce feelings of hopelessness, as well as other symptoms of depression. Express Yourself Find a healthy way to express your feelings. Keep a journal where you can express your thoughts safely and privately.\u00a0 Other creative outlets include writing poetry, painting pictures or sculpting clay. These activities allow you to take a \u201csnapshot\u201d of your thoughts and emotions. When you reread or review your work, you may be able to see\u2014in a very tangible way\u2014the negative thinking patterns, as well as the progress you\u2019re making. Expressing yourself via one of these outlets can help you learn about yourself and make positive changes. Avoid Alcohol and Drugs Some depressed people will turn to substances to numb the pain they\u2019re feeling. Unfortunately, alcohol and drugs provide temporary relief at best--and at a high price.\u00a0 They also often make symptoms worse in the long run. Even worse, alcohol and drugs impair judgment and may make you even more prone to acting on thoughts of suicide.\u00a0 If you\u2019re battling depression (or have a history of depression), it\u2019s definitely best to avoid alcohol and drugs completely. Volunteer One way to overcome feelings of hopelessness is to engage in activities that can help give you a different perspective on life.\u00a0 For example, volunteer your time for a cause that is close to your heart. Help cook or serve meals at a homeless shelter or crochet tiny caps for a nearby hospital neonatal intensive care unit.\u00a0 Helping those less fortunate can help you look at your own life in a more positive way, thus reducing feelings of hopelessness.\u00a0 It also helps boost your self-esteem, gives you a greater sense of belonging in the community, and can provide a much-needed sense of purpose and personal value. Exercise Numerous studies show that regular exercise improves mood in people who struggle with depression. Physical activity--particularly aerobic types of exercise like jogging or swimming--works by releasing the body\u2019s endorphins, which naturally boost your mood. In fact, research has shown that regular exercise is just as beneficial in reducing symptoms of depression as therapy or medication.\u00a0 It\u2019s also much less expensive, doesn\u2019t have side effects, and improves your confidence and overall health as well.\u00a0 (Always be sure to get your doctor\u2019s OK before starting an exercise program.) Join a Support Group Feeling isolated is a big part of feeling hopeless. A depression-related support group can be an invaluable source of comfort and healing as you deal with your emotions. Support group members share experiences, resources, and, sometimes, just provide a sympathetic shoulder to lean on. Find a local group you can connect with. If you\u2019re not sure where to go, ask your mental health professional for a referral. Those living in remote areas or with limited mobility might consider joining an established online support group. Keep Trying When depression has its crushing grip on your thoughts and emotions, it can feel as though life will never get better. However, it\u2019s essential to remember that it\u2019s your depression that\u2019s triggering those feelings of hopelessness. Work with a professional who has the tools and skills to treat depression. \u00a0Make life-affirming lifestyle changes as part of your healing journey as well.\u00a0 Be patient. You\u2019ll find that the hopelessness and despair that once seemed to define your life will begin to lift, making the world a much brighter place.