Nipping Depression in the Bud

Depression prevention and intervention techniques could help a lot of people

(RxWiki News) Waiting until depressive symptoms present in the patient and then turn into a full-blown episode can be difficult to treat. Catching depression before it starts is more effective for long-term success.

Research suggests that teaching healthcare providers how to identify high-risk individuals for depression before they experience their first episode will help their quality of life outcome.

"Seek help before minor depressive symptoms turn into major ones."

Ricardo F. Muñoz, PhD, and Yan Leykin, PhD, from the University of California, San Francisco and San Francisco General Hospital and William R. Beardslee, MD, professor of child psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, proposed a plan to prevent depression.

The research team has labeled their study as a “call to action for the health care system,” by proposing guidelines for healthcare professionals to better identify people that are at a greater risk for depression.

Proper identification of risk factors for depression could lower new cases significantly.

According to Muñoz, “Very few people are aware that depression can be prevented, including professionals in the field, and there are very few preventative services.”

The study states that, “Meta-analyses suggest that 22 percent to 38 percent of major depressive episodes can be prevented.”

Muñoz and his team suggest that situations where genetics or environment could play a role, such as children of parents with clinical depression that are starting to experience depressive symptoms of their own, could greatly benefit from intervention.

Healthcare professionals could teach those children ways to manage their moods with positive coping techniques to prevent major depressive episodes from occurring.

“Why wait until people are seriously depressed to teach them these skills? If we can teach these skills earlier, serious depression can be prevented and we could reduce unnecessary suffering significantly", says Muñoz.

Preventing the first episode from onset is important. Research suggests that preventing the initial onset of depressive episodes is better for the patient than treating depression once it begins.

Researchers are suggesting communities, schools and health centers "implement interventions" for any at-risk demographic: children of depressive parents, pregnant women at risk for postpartum depression, children in high stress home or academic environments, etc.  

Interventions include cognitive-behavioral adjustments, stress and mood management techniques and "The use of mass media, such as radio, television, the Internet, cell phones and other mobile devices." 

The researchers concluded, “We have made progress in having the healthcare system recognize and treat depression. Now that there is scientific evidence that depression can be prevented, that the suffering it produces can be averted, and that this suffering is unnecessary, our communities must collaborate to reduce the global impact of depression.”

This study will be published in American Psychologist, May-June 2012. No financial information was given and no conflicts of interest were found.

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Review Date: 
May 17, 2012