From the CEO
Depression ranks among the top 10 chronic health problems in the United States, affecting more than 14 million adults.1 It's typically diagnosed by primary-care providers. In fact, up to one in four primary-care patients suffers from depression.2 And, over the past decade, drug therapy has become the most popular course of treatment for depression, often implemented by primary-care physicians without the benefit of a psychological consultation.
We've all seen the pharmaceutical industry ads promoting antidepressants, encouraging people to ask their physicians about medications if they show symptoms of depression. Although medication is an appropriate component of treatment for some patients, research demonstrates that psychotherapy is effective in treating depression and anxiety—and it carries far less risk of side effects than medication and a lower risk of relapse.
Unfortunately, too few Americans and primary-care providers consider evidence-based psychotherapy first as a treatment option. In August, APA's Council of Representatives took an important step in addressing that knowledge gap. The council adopted a resolution supporting psychotherapy and its effectiveness in treating a spectrum of health issues, including depression.
Every year in October, depression is highlighted during Mental Illness Awareness Week and National Depression Screening Day. This provides us with an opportunity to increase public understanding of how evidence-based psychotherapy helps in treating depression. This month, the APA Practice Directorate is implementing a psychotherapy awareness initiative, consisting of a multichannel communications effort including media outreach as well as digital and social media. New materials on psychotherapy and depression are available from APA's Psychology Help Center, including the updated brochure "For a Healthy Mind and Body…Talk to a Psychologist." The brochure explains how practicing psychologists can help people manage their stress and treat depression, anxiety and other behavioral health issues. It also highlights psychologists' training and education and provides practical information on confidentiality and insurance coverage for psychological services.
In another segment of this campaign, APA is introducing an animated video series that draws attention to the value of evidence-based psychotherapy. Available on YouTube and APA Psychotherapy, the videos parody a typical drug ad. While the strategy of the videos is to favorably compare psychotherapy to drug therapy, it is careful not to deny the appropriate use of medications for some individuals. The videos use a simple cartoon style to tell a story about psychotherapy.
By arming people with information, we are encouraging those with symptoms of depression or anxiety to ask their primary-care practitioners about psychotherapy as a first course of treatment. We want Americans to know that when it comes to treating depression and anxiety, they have choices about treatment, and psychotherapy is one of them.
2 (AHRQ 2009)
For more information on depression screening and Mental Illness Awareness Week, go to healthfinder.gov and www.mentalhealthscreening.org/events/national-depression-screening-day.aspx.
The brochure, "For a Healthy Mind and Body…Talk to a Psychologist," is available online in English and Spanish. APA members can order printed copies in bulk for free. To order, go to APA Help Center and click on "Order Free Brochures."
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