Recognition of how mental health issues such as depression effect a large portion of the population has gained welcome acceptance in recent years. Despite this, many people are unwilling to seek treatment from their GP or local community for their problems due to a lingering suspicion that they could be ostracised or thought of as different.
The results of a new study released in the US this week, strongly suggests that one in four patients who suffer from a depressive illness would rather suffer in silence than visit their GP. The reason for this anomaly tends to confirm that mental health issues and psychiatric illness still carry a factor of shame in modern society. Results also pointed to the fact that sufferers do not welcome the idea of taking anti-depressants.
Could statistics for depression be skewed?
For some time now doctors have been aware of the fact that depression is likely to affect one in four adults in western society. It does make you wonder how these figures are calculated, when it appears that the majority of adults would prefer to hide the fact that they suffer or have suffered from depression. If, as this recent survey suggests, it is to a large extent socially unacceptable to admit to having it, how are these figures amassed? Certainly, it is easier for individuals to be honest in a survey if there is an element of anonymity but this can hardly account for everyone. From this point of view depression could be a great deal more prolific than we think.
Mental health still an issue
With the closing of the larger mental health asylums and the introduction of care in the community, many feel there is a much better understanding and tolerance of mental illness in society. We can talk much more openly about it, we comprehend it better, and the technology and medication to combat it is more efficient. Part of this acceptance must be due to the fact that with care in the community we are able to meet and mix with others who have mental illness. We soon realise that apart from the behaviours attributed to the illness itself, sufferers are just like every other normal person.
However the survey proves that individuals still need to distance themselves from the stigma of mental illness even when depression can be a natural result of the pressures and stresses of life or an extreme trauma. It would seem people are afraid of being branded a psychiatric patient.
Dr. Norman Sussman, a professor of psychiatry at New York University Langone Medical Centre, told CBS News, “When patients are diagnosed with depression, they can go into a state of shock emotionally and view it as some kind of indictment of personality or character. People would almost prefer to get a serious medical diagnosis than be told they have a psychiatric disorder."