A novel mental health monitor has indicated that the lives of people with depression symptoms could be drastically improved if others understood their condition.
The research, conducted using the GeneSight Mental Health Monitor, demonstrates that 83% of people suffering from depression symptoms in the US feel that their lives would be enhanced if the condition were understood more comprehensively. The study also suggests that people who have never experience depression symptoms potentially cannot recognise the challenges associated with the mental health disease, including its treatment.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month – to raise awareness of severe depression symptoms and why seeking treatment is difficult for sufferers – Genesight is teaming up with the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA).
Dr Mark Pollack, the chief medical officer for the GeneSight test at Myriad Genetics, said: “Depression is one of the most misunderstood disorders. When people misinterpret patients with depression as ‘lazy’ or ‘dramatic,’ that is why we are working with the depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, so that loved ones can offer more empathetic support and people with depression won’t feel so alone.”
The need for compassion
Of those suffering from depression, 75% say that having someone listen to their emotions, whether that be a loved one, a friend, or even a stranger, is the vital coping mechanism they desire the most. Instead of comforting phrases like “What can I do to help?” or “Would you like to talk about it?” sufferers of depression symptoms are instead told that they will get over it, that we all get sad sometimes, and this is nothing out of the ordinary.
A deep shame and embarrassment of people finding out about their condition is stated by those suffering from the disease, with nearly half of the participants using the Genesight Mental Health Monitor indicating this.
Michael Thase, professor of psychiatry, Perelman School of Medicine and the Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center, said: “Depression is a serious but treatable medical condition that affects how a person feels, thinks, and acts. Though typically characterised by feelings of sadness, depression symptoms may appear as irritability or apathy.
“We must work together – providers, patients, family, and friends – to continue to reduce the impact of stigma. Misunderstanding the disorder may lead to people feeling embarrassed and unwilling to seek the treatment they need.”
Depression symptoms impacted by COVID-19
In a time where globally people have been subjected to extensive periods of isolation-induced loneliness, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a substantial impact on the mental health of those with depression, creating new victims of the illness. Over 50% of those diagnosed with depression said they had started a new treatment since the inception of the pandemic, with over half trying four or more medications in their lifetime – a further 25% reporting to have tried more than six medications to find relief.
“I couldn’t get out of bed to take care of my children, much less go to the doctor multiple times to try new medicines that ‘might’ help. The years of trial and error were so frustrating and discouraging. You feel like you are stuck living that way,” said Amanda, a 25-year-old woman diagnosed with major depressive disorder.
Many participants shared this trial-and-error process outlined by Amanda in the GeneSight Mental Health Monitor. 51% described it as “On a rollercoaster,” 45% as “I’m just waiting for the next side effect,” 44% as “Walking through a maze blindfolded,” and 42% as “Playing a game of darts, only I’m the dartboard.” Furthermore, four in ten participants report that they are not confident that their medication will work for them, with a further 70% feeling hopeful if genetic testing – an analysis of how a patient’s genes impact their outcomes with medication – is part of their treatment plan.
Dr Pollack said: “With just a simple cheek swab, the GeneSight test provides your clinician with information about which medications may require dose adjustments, be less likely to work or have an increased risk of side effects based on a patient’s genetic makeup. It’s one of many tools in a physician’s toolbox that may help get patients on the road to feeling more like themselves again.”