Depression (cont.)

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Where can one seek help for depression?

A complete physical and psychological diagnostic evaluation by professionals will help the depressed person decide the type of treatment that might be best for him or her. However, if the situation is urgent because a suicide seems possible, taking the patient to the emergency room is the appropriate course of action. If the patient makes a suicide gesture or attempt, a 911 call is warranted. The patient might not realize how much help he or she needs. In fact, he or she might feel undeserving of help because of the negativity and helplessness that is a part of depressive illness.

Listed below are the types of people and places that will make a referral or provide diagnostic and treatment services. Check the Yellow Pages under "mental health," "health," "social services," "suicide prevention," "hospitals," or "physicians" for phone numbers and addresses.

  • Family doctors
  • Mental health specialists, such as psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, pastoral or mental health nurses, or other counselors
  • Health-maintenance organizations
  • Community mental health centers
  • Hospital psychiatry departments and outpatient clinics
  • Community support groups, often hospital affiliated
  • University or medical school-affiliated programs
  • State hospital outpatient clinics
  • Family service/social agencies
  • Private clinics and facilities
  • Employee assistance programs
  • Local medical and/or psychiatric societies

What is in the future for depression?

We are close to having genetic markers for bipolar disorder. Soon after, we hope to also have them for major depression. That way, we can know of a child's vulnerability to depression from birth and try to create preventive strategies. For example, we can teach parents early warning signs so that they can get treatment for their children, if necessary, to ward off future problems.

The new world of pharmacogenetics holds the promise of actually keeping the genes responsible for depression turned off so as to avoid the illnesses completely. Also, by studying genes, we are learning more about the matching of patients with treatment. This kind of information will be able to tell us which patients do well on which types of drugs and psychotherapy regimens.

We are learning more about the interactions of the neurochemicals, the chemical messengers in the brain, and their influence on depression. Moreover, new categories of neurochemicals, such as neuropeptides and substance P, are being studied. As a result, we will soon be able to develop new drugs that should be more effective with fewer side effects. We are also learning startling things about how maternal stress early in pregnancy can profoundly affect the developing fetus. For example, we now know that maternal stress can greatly increase the risk for the fetus to develop depression as an adult.

Further information is also being discerned about how to most effectively make treatment of depression available and acceptable to all who need it. This is particularly important for children and adolescents, minorities, individuals who are economically disadvantaged or live in rural areas, the elderly and for people with developmental disabilities, who are known to suffer from lack of adequate access to mental health treatment that is knowledgeable and respectful of what may be their unique needs and preferences. While sadness will always be part of the human condition, hopefully we will be able to lessen or eradicate the more severe mood disorders from the world to the benefit of all of us.


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