In a new nationwide poll, the GeneSight Mental Health Monitor found that 83% of people with depression agree that life would be easier if others could understand their depression. Yet, most people who have not experienced depression may not be able to understand the challenges, including its treatment.
‘Depression is one of the most misunderstood disorders. When people misinterpret patients with depression as “lazy” or “dramatic,” they are vastly underestimating and misunderstanding the debilitating symptoms of major depressive disorder,’ said Mark Pollack, MD, chief medical officer for the GeneSight test at Myriad Genetics. ‘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.’
For Mental Health Awareness Month (May), GeneSight and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) have partnered to raise awareness and understanding for how a person who has major depressive disorder feels, and why it can be so hard to seek treatment.
Lack of understanding and empathy about depression
Three out of four people living with depression said they desire support from their loved ones, including just listening or saying supportive things like: ‘How can I help?’ or ‘Do you want to talk about it?’ Instead, nearly half of those with depression said they were more likely to hear statements like: ‘You need to get over it’ or ‘Snap out of it’ or ‘We all get sad sometimes.’
‘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,’ said Michael Thase, MD, professor of psychiatry, Perelman School of Medicine and the Corporal Michael J Crescenz VA Medical Center, and DBSA scientific advisory board member. ‘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 or unwilling to seek the treatment they need.’
Nearly half of those either diagnosed with depression or concerned they may have depression, say they feel ashamed or embarrassed when others found out they were suffering from depression, according to the GeneSight Mental Health Monitor.
Pandemic prompts search for new treatment
More than half of those diagnosed with depression indicated in the poll that they started a new treatment since the start of the pandemic. Nevertheless, for some, starting a new depression medication doesn’t guarantee success.
More than half of people diagnosed with depression said they have tried four or more depression medications in their lifetime, with nearly one in four respondents reporting they have tried six or more medications to try 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,’ said Amanda, a 25-year-old woman who was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. ‘The years of trial and error were so frustrating and discouraging. You feel like you are stuck living that way.’
Those who indicated in the GeneSight Mental Health Monitor that they had experienced the trial-and-error process described the experience as:
- ‘On a rollercoaster’ (51%)
- ‘I’m just waiting for the next side effect’ (45%)
- ‘Walking through a maze blindfolded’ (44%)
- ‘Playing a game of darts, only I’m the dartboard’ (42%)
While four in 10 of those diagnosed with depression say they are not confident that their depression medications will work for them, seven in 10 would feel ‘hopeful’ if their doctor recommended genetic testing as part of their treatment plan.
Genetic testing, like the GeneSight Psychotropic test, analyses how a patient’s genes may affect their outcomes with medications commonly prescribed to treat depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric conditions.
‘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,’ said Dr Pollack. ‘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.’
Conquering the depression disconnect
While seven in 10 adults said that they are more conscious about their own or others mental health challenges than they were before the pandemic began, less than half of adults are very confident they can recognise if a loved one is suffering from depression, according to the GeneSight Mental Health Monitor.