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Survey Reveals Big Gap in Understanding of Depression

Americans don't believe they know much about depression, but are highly aware of the risks of not receiving care, according to a survey released by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

The survey provides a “three dimensional” measurement of responses from members of the general public who don't know anyone with depression, caregivers of adults diagnosed with depression, and adults actually living with the illness.

* Seventy-one percent of the public sample said they aren't familiar with depression, but 68% or more know specific consequences that can come from not receiving treatment — including suicide (84%).

* Sixty-two percent believe they know some symptoms of depression, but 39% said they don't know many or any at all.

* One major finding: Almost 50% of caregivers who responded had been diagnosed with depression themselves, but only about 25% said they were engaged in treatment.

* Almost 60% of people living with depression reported that they rely on their primary-care physicians rather than mental-health professionals for treatment. Medication and “talk therapy” are primary treatments — if a person can get them - but other options are helpful.

* Fifteen percent of people living with depression use animal therapy with 54% finding it to be “extremely” or “quite a bit” helpful. Those using prayer and physical exercise also ranked them high in helpfulness (47% and 40%, respectively).

* When people living with depression discontinue medication or talk therapy, cost is a common reason, but other significant factors include a desire “to make it on my own,” whether they believe the treatment is actually working and in the case of medication, side effects.

”The survey reveals gaps and guideposts on roads to recovery,” said NAMI Executive Director Michael J. Fitzpatrick. “It tells what has been found helpful in treating depression. It can help caregivers better anticipate stress that will confront them. It reflects issues that need to be part of ongoing healthcare reform.”

“There are many treatment strategies” said NAMI Medical Director Ken Duckworth. “What often works is a combination of treatments that fit a person and their lifestyle.

“Research indicates that the combination of medication and psychotherapy are most effective. But physical exercise, prayer, music therapy, yoga, animal therapy and other practices all can play a role. “The good news is that 80% or more of the public recognize that depression is a medical illness, affecting
people of all ages, races and socioeconomic groups, which can be treated.”

The survey was made possible with support from AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly & Co. and Wyeth. NAMI doesn't endorse or promote any specific medication, treatment, product or service.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness is the nation’s largest grass-roots mental-health organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. NAMI has more than 1,100 state and local affiliates that engage in research, education, support and advocacy.

See full survey results at

Harris Interactive conducted the survey for NAMI online between Sept. 29 and Oct. 7. Participants included 1,015 persons who didn't know anyone diagnosed with depression, 513 persons living with depression and 263 caregivers of a family member or significant other diagnosed with depression.

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