“Hey doc! It’s time for an attitude adjustment.”

“Bill, I don’t care what his diagnosis is. If he’s suicidal find him a bed. If he isn’t, give him a referral or two. Just get him out of my E.R.!”

Ah, the comforting words of an E.R. attending I worked with during my emergency psych days. Seems someone needed an attitude adjustment.

But it isn’t just Dr. Fussy-Britches. When it comes to depression, general practitioners could use a swift-kick in the fanny.

“There’s More to Depression” Survey

As part of the public education campaign “There’s More to Depression,” a revealing survey was conducted. Included were the following groups of people from England, Wales, and Scotland…

  • 152 general practitioners (GPs)
  • 411 adults (18 years old +) who’d visited their GP in the past three years due to feeling low or depressed
  • 2008 individuals (16 years old +) who were asked if they’d ever seen their GP for feeling low or depressed

The survey results are telling. It seems that 96% of the GPs surveyed typically or “always try” to assess a patient’s level of depression upon diagnosis. Problem is, only 11% are “very confident” with discussing the treatment implications with a patient. In fact, only 20% could say they “always” make an attempt. Ouch!

Now, depression can present in all sorts of ways. Yes, “depression is definitely not depression.” That said, knowing and really understanding the degree of severity is pivotal in drafting and selecting treatment options.

66% of the survey participants said that piece of information would be useful.

Another issue. Waiting too long for a correct depression diagnosis only prolongs the onset of treatment – and extends misery. Hmmm – just about half of the GPs stated it takes over three months to be comfortable they’ve made the correct assessment of a depression patient’s level of severity.

Identifying and Distinguishing Bipolar Disorder

But depression wasn’t the only problem disorder. There were issues with identifying bipolar disorder, and distinguishing it from major depressive disorder.

Just 34% of the GPs surveyed routinely screen for bipolar disorder. This in the face of their estimate that 40% of their bipolar patients had been diagnosed with something else.

Meaningful Words

According to Dr. Chris Manning MRCGP, Fellow of the International Society for Affective Disorders, Mental Health Lead for the College of Medicine and adviser to the “There’s More to Depression” campaign…

“Depression is a complex condition which needs to be better understood. We need to ensure that people are able to make informed decisions about their treatment and this means we need to provide them with clear information on the different severity levels and types of depression, as well as all of the treatment choices at their disposal and the supports available to help them.”

From Emer O’Neill, Chief Executive of Depression Alliance…

“Choice is a key factor. We need to ensure that people have good quality, easily accessible information on depression so that they can make choices over the range of treatments available. People with depression need access to information so they can work with their GP to help them access different choices which have been shown to help assist recovery and end the feelings of loneliness that come with depression, including talking therapies and lifestyle changes.”

It’s a Wrap

So what do you think? I have to say that I find the results of the survey upsetting. I mean, these are very bright women and men having professional difficulties. How does one account for that?

Could it be an attitude problem like Dr. Fussy-Britches’? Is it about stigma? Is it a matter of simply not caring?

Good questions, all. But for that level of intelligence and education, I expect more!

A bit of a sidebar. It’s interesting that the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca – manufacturer of quetiapine (Seroquel) – was heavily involved in the campaign.

Hmmm, I dunno’.

special thanks to medicalnewstoday.com for reference