Report Shows Many with Depression Never Seek Treatment


Depression awareness campaigns in various forms of media have gained traction. One potential consequence of this widespread awareness is that depression’s pervasiveness is often mistaken for a sign that it’s not a serious disorder. Those who are depressed may downplay their symptoms and resist seeking help because they don’t think the issue will be recognized as serious disorder.

A national report issued by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows a significant gap between the number of people diagnosed with depression and the number that receive treatment. The report indicates that 38.3 percent of those experiencing major depressive episodes don’t receive any type of treatment.

About 15.2 million adults report experiencing major depressive episodes each year, but when SAMHSA combined data from the 2008 to 2012 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health, one-third of sufferers of a major depressive episode had not talked with a health professional within the previous 12 months.

Of those that did seek out treatment, 48 percent had talked with only a health professional and 10.7 percent had talked with both a health professional and an alternative service professional. Health professionals included general practitioners, family doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners, social workers and counselors.

Alternative service professionals included religious or spiritual advisers, herbalists, chiropractors or massage therapists. Among health professionals, general practitioners and family doctors were the most often seen about depression, at a rate of approximately 37 percent. Among alternative service professionals, individuals most often talked with religious or spiritual advisors.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression can be distinguished from an everyday low mood, in part because it is a more chronic experience. Depression is characterized by not only sadness, but hopelessness, a lack of motivation, insomnia and a persistent interference with everyday life.

Treatment for depression may include antidepressants, cognitive behavioral therapy, other types of therapy and various alternative treatments. Treatment with antidepressants is often successful, though it can be challenging to find the right medication with side effects that the patient feels do not eclipse the benefits of the drug.

The findings of the report highlight the need for the promotion of the treatment options that are available to those suffering from depression. The family doctor or general practitioner is often the first response to concerns about depression, and it is important that screening tools be used in the exam.

Physicians that use the screening tools must also be trained to effectively discuss treatment options and help patients connect with the right type of medication or therapy that will ensure successful treatment.

It is important that physicians that suspect a patient may be depressed help them recognize the importance of treatment, which can significantly improve quality of life. In addition, there is a need to help the general public understand the serious nature of depression, and that despite its prevalence, it can severely affect quality of life. Sufferers of depression require a strong support system. As the patient initiates treatment, it’s important that they have a support system of friends and family that can encourage the patient to continue treatment.

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