Background Although attitudes towards psychiatric illness influence its presentation, detection, recognition, treatment adherence and rehabilitation, the lay public's opinions and beliefs about the treatment of depression have not been investigated sufficiently. Objective The aim of this study was to determine public opinions and beliefs about the treatment of depression and the influence of perception and causal attributions on attitudes towards treatment of depression in urban areas. Methods This study was carried out with a representative sample in Istanbul, which is the biggest metropolis in Turkey. Seven hundred and seven subjects completed the public survey form which consisted of 32 items rating attitudes towards depression. Results The public believes that psychological and social interventions are more effective than pharmacotherapy, and that the medicines used in treatment of depression are harmful and addictive. There was a general reluctance to consult a physician for depression, and psychiatrists were felt to be more helpful than general practitioners. The public viewed depression as treatable. A high educational level and perceiving depression as a disease is associated with positive beliefs and opinions about the treatment of depression; but the perception of depressive patients as aggressive is associated with negative beliefs and opinions about the treatment of depression. Conclusion The beliefs that " psychological and social interventions are more effective than pharmacotherapy" and " antidepressants are harmful and addictive" must specifically be taken into account in clinical practice and in anti-stigma campaigns. Additional studies are needed to understand the public's tendency to conceptualise depression as a psychosocial problem. In clinical practice, depression should be in troduced as a bio-psychosocial disease whatever its cause: biological, psychological or social. In addition, the differences between extreme worry and disease, and the lack of aggressiveness of depressive patients, must be emphasised.