The first pan-European survey of depression in the community (DEPRES I) demonstrated that 17% of the general population suffer from depression (major depression, minor depression, or depressive symptoms). This article describes findings from a second phase of DEPRES (DEPRES II), in which detailed interviews based on a semi-structured questionnaire (78 questions) were conducted with 1884 DEPRES I participants who had suffered from depression and who consulted a healthcare professional about their symptoms during the previous 6 months. The mean time from onset of depression was 45 months, and the most commonly experienced symptoms during the latest period were low mood (76%), tiredness (73%) and sleep problems (63%). During the previous 6 months, respondents had been unable to undertake normal activities because of their depression for a mean of 30 days, and a mean of 20 days of work had been lost to depression by those in paid employment. Approximately one-third of respondents (30%) had received an antidepressant during the latest period of depression. Significantly more respondents given a selective serotonin reputake inhibitor found that their treatment made them feel more like their normal self than those given a tricyclic antidepressant, and fewer reported treatment-related concentration lapses, weight problems, and heavy-headedness (all P < 0.05). Approximately two-thirds of respondents (70%) had received no antidepressant therapy during the latest period of depression, and prescription of benzodiazepines alone, which are not effective against depression, was widespread (17%). There is a need for education of healthcare professionals to encourage appropriate treatment of depression.