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Depression: So Misunderstood

Depression: So Misunderstood


Americans do not believe they know much about depression, but they are highly aware of the risks of not receiving care, according to a survey released by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

* 71% of the public sample said they are not familiar with depression, but 68% or more know specific consequences that can come from not receiving treatment, including suicide (84%).

* 62% believe they know some symptoms of depression, but 39% said they do not know many or any at all.

* One major finding: Almost 50% of caregivers who responded had been diagnosed with depression themselves, but only about 25% said they were engaged in treatment.

* Almost 60% of people living with depression reported that they rely on their primary care physicians rather than mental health professionals for treatment. Medication and "talk therapy" are primary treatments -- if a person can get them -- but other options are helpful.

* 15% of people living with depression use animal therapy, with 54% finding it to be "extremely" or "quite a bit" helpful. Those using prayer and physical exercise also ranked them high in helpfulness (47% and 40%, respectively).

* When people living with depression discontinue medication or talk therapy, cost is a common reason, but other significant factors include a desire "to make it on my own," whether they believe the treatment is actually working and in the case of medication, side effects.

"The survey reveals gaps and guideposts on roads to recovery," says NAMI executive director Michael J. Fitzpatrick. "It tells what has been found helpful in treating depression. It can help caregivers better anticipate stress that will confront them. It reflects issues that need to be part of ongoing health care reform."

"There are many treatment strategies," says NAMI medical director Ken Duckworth. "What often works is a combination of treatments that fit a person and their lifestyle. Research indicates that the combination of medication and psychotherapy are most effective. But physical exercise, prayer, music therapy, yoga, animal therapy and other practices all can play a role. The good news is that 80% or more of the public recognize that depression is a medical illness -- affecting people of all ages, races, and socioeconomic groups -- that can be treated."

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