According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 9% of adult Americans have been diagnosed with depression, and 3% have major depression, a severe, long-term form of depression.[i] In fact, major depression is the primary cause of disability for people aged 15-44.[ii]
Depression Comes in Different Forms
While everyone experiences sadness, people who feel hopeless and helpless about life’s stressors are more likely to become depressed. Depression is more complex than a single diagnosis; there are many types of depression, including:[iii]
- Major Depression – a severely depressed mood that lasts two weeks or more and interferes with a person’s daily functions
- Dysthymia – a less severe, chronic depression that lasts two years or longer, affecting 1.5 percent of adults
- Postpartum Depression – depression that sets in shortly after childbirth and affects 10-15 percent of women
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – a depression caused by a lack of natural sunlight that usually occurs during winter months and affects 4-6 percent of Americans
- Bipolar Disorder – moods that cycle between depression and extreme excitability (mania); a condition that affects about 2.6 percent of adults.
- Psychotic Depression – This is the most severe form of depression, with symptoms that include hallucinations, delusions and other breaks with reality; it is very uncommon, occurring in five percent of people with major depression.
Increased awareness and understanding of depression is one of the most effective ways to offer support and challenge stereotypes. Molly Knight Raskin is a journalist and recipient of the 2007 Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism and the 2010 American Psychoanalytic Association Award for Excellence in Journalism. Raskin’s research and experience have led her to conclude “To me, there’s only one thing standing in the way of our ability to care for mentally ill people in this country, and around the world: stigma.” [iv]
Stigma and alienation affect people diagnosed with depression (or any mental illness) in many ways. The social rejection and isolation caused by stigma has been linked to poor emotional and physical health, early mortality and even the level of disability. Stigma is also internalized by people with depression who develop a powerful “self-stigma” that undermines self-efficacy, discourages seeking help and fosters a sense of fatalism that prevents recovery.[v]
Current research reveals people in the following groups are more likely to experience major depression: [vi]
- – People who are African-American, Hispanic, and other minority races or multiple races compared to non-Hispanic White people
- – People aged 45-64 years
- – Women
- – People with chronic health conditions and unhealthy behaviors (e.g. smoking)
- – People who are divorced or never married
- – People with less than a high school education
- – People who are unemployed or unable to work
- – People without health insurance coverage
Depression often coexists with many other conditions, because depression may increase risk of illness or injury, and the emotional and physical effects of illness may lead to depression.[vii] According to the NIMH, depression will affect:
- – 50-75% of people who have an eating disorder
- – 50% of people with Parkinson’s disease
- – 40% of people with post-traumatic stress disorder
- – 33% of people who’ve had a heart attack
- – 27% of people with substance abuse problems
- – 25% of people who have cancer
These statistics make it clear that medical professionals in all specialties must have the education and support needed to help manage personal bias and proactively identify those patients who are vulnerable to depression. Increasing awareness amongst medical practitioners fosters the possibility of integrating mental health screening in primary care settings.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that in 2020, depression will be the number two cause of “lost years of healthy life” worldwide. The cost of depression is estimated at $30.4 billion a year and the cost in human suffering is inestimable.[viii] It is clear that depression is a powerful condition, but treatments are available, and to encourage people to seek help, the stigma of depression must be addressed through knowledge and awareness.
[iii] National Institute of Mental of Health, What is Depression?, http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml. Accessed January 30, 2015
[iv] Friedman, Michael, The stigma of mental illness is making us sicker: Why mental illness should be a public health priority. Psychology Today, May 13, 2014. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brick-brick/201405/the-stigma-mental-illness-is-making-us-sicker. Accessed January 30, 2015
[vi] Center for Disease Control. Current Depression Among Adults-United States, 2006 and 2008. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2010 Oct 1;59(38):1229-35. http://www.cdc.gov/features/dsdepression/. Accessed January 30, 2015.
[vii] Haines, Cynthia (2005.) WebMD and The Cleveland Clinic, Depression Caused by Chronic Illness. http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=55170
[viii] Washington University in St. Louis, Department of Psychiatry, http://www.psychiatry.wustl.edu/depression/depression_facts.htm, Accessed January 30, 2014.