The authors used data from the 1997-2000 National Hospital Ambulatory Care Surveys to quantify and characterize visits to emergency departments for depression. Each year there were 580,000 visits associated with a primary diagnosis of depression. More than half of these visits resulted in admission to a hospital or another facility. Twelve percent of visits involved a self-inflicted injury. Antidepressants were offered during 18 percent of visits. Mental status examinations were given during 52 percent of visits. Overall, 81 percent of visits were by patients who had health insurance coverage.