Alternative Treatments for Depression Infrequently Used

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Alternative Treatments for Depression Infrequently Used

Jim Windell


           During the pandemic, the mental health of Americans got worse. In particular, there was a dramatic increase in depression. Not that the number of people in the U.S. suffering from depression was anything to write home about before the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, it is estimated that 21 million adults experienced at least one serious depressive episode prior to the onset of the pandemic. During the pandemic, that number jumped from about eight percent of the population to 10 percent.

           As Elissa Patterson, Ph.D., and Jay Kayser, Ph.D. student, point out in a recent article in The Conversation, the number of people struggling with depression increased dramatically at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, such things as school closures, job losses and the death of loved ones created stressful conditions for many of us as life became more challenging and the risk of developing emotional difficulties soared.

           This is not to say that we are not pouring money into mental health services. Patterson and Kayser write that there was a 62% increase in yearly spending on mental health care in this country from $131 billion in 2006 to $212 billion in 2015. Yet, this outlay of dollars has not resulted in significant improvement for patients. According to Patterson and Kayser, “This makes it clear that the current approach is falling short, but there are a host of viable alternatives for helping to treat patients who are suffering with depression.”

           Dr. Patterson, who is Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology at the  University of Michigan, and Jay Kayser, who is a Ph.D. student in Social Work and Developmental Psychology at the University of Michigan, emphasize that as mental health professionals they see the effects of the ongoing mental health crisis every day. The crisis, as they see it, includes more than 13% of U.S. adults who take antidepressant medication for depression, but “Unfortunately, nearly 3 in 4 who take these drugs do not get complete relief from antidepressants.” Too often, Patterson and Kayser say, they see patients who feel demoralized by the implied and untrue notion that their depression is “incurable” after only trying medication – but not trying lower-risk treatments like psychotherapy and other effective alternatives.

           Too often, the U.S. health care system relies heavily on medication and other biomedical treatments for depression. However, there are numerous non-drug-based solutions for prevention and treatment of depression.

           Patterson and Kayser conclude by noting that holistic concepts that promote “flourishing and thriving,” as well as whole-health initiatives and mind-body medicine focus on the entire person. “These concepts,” they write, “have not yet been fully integrated into approaches to public mental health.”

           To read the original article in The Conversation, find it with this link.

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