It’s depression awareness week in the UK. The Depression Alliance hosts the week-long effort to make people more aware of the facts about depression, one of the most common mental health issues facing people in the UK and around the world.
They host the week in an effort to try and end the stigma and prejudice associated with depression. They say you can help “by raising awareness, holding a fundraiser, donating or joining Depression Alliance.” You can also share your story with them on their website.
Depression is the feeling of being sad all the time for no reason, having no hope for the future, being unable to enjoy things in life you used to enjoy (friends, hobbies, etc.), and is often accompanied by problems sleeping, feeling lethargic, and taking no pleasure in anything (specific depression symptoms). It is a complex disorder — not a pure disease — that has significant underlying biological, psychological and social components in most people who have it.
Feeling more aware yet? Good, then we’re half-way there.
I’m less impressed, however, by one of their project websites, “What You Should Know About Depression,” which is supposed to help people “make decisions on the best treatment for you.” Apparently the best treatment for most people are antidepressants, according to their website. Why? Because they have 12 pages about antidepressants, and just 1 page about one specific form of psychotherapy.
This is medication-bias, plain and simple. There are actually at least 4 different kinds of psychotherapy that have solid research support in the treatment of depression (not just cognitive-behavioral therapy), and another half-dozen forms of therapy that have some support in the research literature.
There’s also other important forms of treatment, such as self-help resources — support groups, books, techniques one can learn off of the Internet — not even mentioned on the website.
So while I’m all for “depression awareness,” can we please make the resources we publish a little less biased toward medications, and help people better understand that medication will do nothing to solve any underlying, longer-term psychological issues that may have triggered the depressive episode in the first place?
We respect the work the Depression Alliance is doing. But it shouldn’t be emphasizing medication over psychotherapy. The research is quite clear that for the quickest, most helpful result, most people should be both on medication and in psychotherapy for depression.
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Read more about Depression Awareness week on the Depression Alliance website: Depression Awareness Week