Americans do not believe they know much about depression, but are highly aware of the risks of not receiving care, according to a survey released by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
The survey provides a "three dimensional" measurement of responses from members of the general public who do not know anyone with depression, caregivers of adults diagnosed with depression, and adults actually living with the illness.
• Seventy-one percent of the public sample said they are not familiar with depression, but 68 percent or more know specific consequences that can come from not receiving treatment—including suicide (84 percent)
• Sixty-two percent believe they know some symptoms of depression, but 39 percent said they do not know many or any at all.
One major finding: almost 50 percent of caregivers who responded had been diagnosed with depression themselves, but only about 25 percent said they were engaged in treatment.
Almost 60 percent 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.
• Fifteen percent of people living with depression use animal therapy with 54 percent finding it to be "extremely" or "quite a bit" helpful. Those using prayer and physical exercise also ranked them high in helpfulness (47 percent and 40 percent 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," said NA MI 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" said 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 percent or more of the public recognize that depression is a medical illness, affecting people of all ages, races and socioeconomic groups, which can be treated"
Harris Interactive conducted the survey for NAMI on-line between September 29 and October 7, 2009. Participants included 1,015 persons who did not know anyone diagnosed with depression, 513 persons living with depression and 263 caregivers of a family member or significant other diagnosed with depression.
The survey was made possible with support from AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly & Co. and Wyeth. NAMI does not endorse or promote any specific medication, treatment, product or service.
NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness, including depression. Over 1100 state affiliates engage in research, education, support and advocacy.
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