Doctors put spotlight on depression issues

Physicians at the Yale School of Medicine are making an attempt to put a halt to people’s misconceptions that clinical depression is just ordinary sadness.

In an effort to raise awareness, a group of psychiatrists from the Yale School of Medicine and the Connecticut Mental Health Center at Yale — led by Yale psychiatry professor Hilary Blumberg — presented material about mood disorders at the state Capitol in Hartford on Oct. 6­ — National Depression Screening Day. To bring their message to the community, the group also distributed information and offered mental health screenings at YNHH Primary Care Center and Hill Health Center.

The psychiatrists hope to collaborate with legislators to ensure that resources are directed toward serving people with mental health problems, said Carolyn Mazure, professor of psychiatry and director of Women’s Health Research at Yale.

“There are treatments available for depression that work,” Mazure said. “There are issues of access, and we need to support programs that provide both behavioral intervention and pharmacological intervention for depression, and to provide prevention strategies for targeted populations at risk.”

National Depression Screening Day was founded in 1991 to raise the level of education and awareness about mental health disorders and to offer individuals the opportunity to be screened for depression. NDSD is coordinated nationally and implemented locally at community centers such as colleges, clinics and workplaces.

“Studies now continue to replicate the finding that depression is common and that it is a disabling disorder,” Mazure said. “It interrupts functioning. It is the greatest cause of disability worldwide.”

Blumberg, who directs Yale’s Mood Disorders Research Program, said research shows that depression is a serious problem and that it can be treated effectively. Continuing research into the causes of depression, such as brain structure differences, can provide insight into new treatment possibilities, she said.

Blumberg said it is important to educate people about mood disorders and available treatment.

“Recent studies have a hopeful message, but research is only so powerful,” Blumberg said. “We need to get the word out.”

Erica Newland ’08, who participated in the Primary Care Center event, said she helped “get the word out.” She said organizers hoped to provide information that would help people recognize depression symptoms and understand available treatments.

Psychiatrist Jessica Kalmar, who led the Primary Care Center effort, said she and her colleagues were pleased with the success in reaching patients and visitors as well as health care providers.

Although Blumberg said she thinks Hill Health Center is doing strikingly well in providing adequate treatment to those with mood disorders, she said there are bumps in the road.

“There are limited resources in this country for people who have mental disorders,” she said.

Psychiatrist Zubin Bhagwagar said cultural attitudes toward depression often discourage people from seeking treatment.

“Most people with mood disorders have a stigma, I think, which prevents them, or they feel prevents them, from reaching out for help,” Bhagwagar said. “That stigma is prevalent not just within society but even within the medical profession.”

Desan, the Director of Psychiatric Consultation Services at YNHH, said many people could benefit from treatment.

“There are many people out there for whom treatment would be extremely useful,” Desan said. “Not just pharmacological treatment, but also psychotherapy. I think it’s unfortunate that people see an opposition between the two.”


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