When depression hits home, know you are not alone

When it comes to depression, one of the things I always make very clear to people who are struggling is that there is nothing wrong with you. You are not alone. You are not weak.

There has been a progressive increase in the incidence of major depression over the last 70 years, with 17 percent of women and nine percent of men in the United States reporting a major depression disorder within their lifetime, many others go undiagnosed.

With the upcoming GTDAA depression awareness conference, it is a great opportunity to learn more about this disease and dispel the stigmas that surround depression. The participants are fantastic, and I admire all that they are doing to bring the topic of depression out of the darkness and into the community. These groups have really done a lot, not only with this conference but to bring awareness about depression in general.

The truth is, we need more discussion about depression. There are millions of patients who not only struggle with depression, but their symptoms greatly impact their daily lives.

Depression can manifest itself in a number of symptoms. For some individuals depression means overeating, oversleeping or withdrawing from activities they once found enjoyable. For others, it can mean not eating enough, having trouble sleeping and intense irritability.

Some may look at these people and try to lend an encouraging word, telling them to spend time outdoors or to put on a happy face. That just doesn’t work when you’re suffering from major depression. What most don’t realize is depression has both environmental and genetic components, just like diabetes. Just as patients are counseled on their glucose levels, patients with depression need counseling, medication and advice on how to care for themselves.

Because of the prevalence of this disease, we are making more resources available to our primary care physicians to better treat patients with depression. As an internal medicine physician and Chief Medical Officer of HealthTexas Provider Network, I work to implement tools that will help caregivers and patients throughout Baylor Scott & White Health.

One tool we have introduced is an integrated impact model in some of our clinics. This allows clinical social workers to be there in the primary care clinic, to provide counseling in the same comfortable environment where you normally see your doctor. We’ve also been working on telemedicine as a form of counseling, so you could discuss your depression remotely from your own home. We’re also making sure there are depression resources in the community, and our primary care providers know about these opportunities.

Primary care doctors interact with a number of patients every day, however, patients with depression sometimes require more time and attention for proper management.

For example, you may see your primary care provider to discuss your health at your annual check-up. You may have some concerns about managing your weight or you may have some hip pain to report. After your exam you may stand up to leave, without telling the rest of the story.

These patients sometimes don’t uncover what is truly hiding underneath the health complaints—depression. Providers soon realize that it’s not just a physical issue, but an emotional health concern as well.

At these visits, we feel it’s important to utilize the relationship the patient has with their primary care provider in order to treat depression. A lot of patients have a very good relationship with their provider and that’s really the person they look to go to with something like depression. You trust your primary care provider already, and that is important since this is a very personal disease.

About the author

Michael Massey, MD
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Dr. Michael Massey serves as Vice President for Clinical Integration and Chairman of the Best Care Committees Primary Care Subcommittee, Baylor Scott & White Quality Alliance (BSWQA). Dr Massey also serves as Chief Medical Officer for HealthTexas Provider Network in Dallas.

Dr. Massey is a board certified internal medicine physician, and plays an integral role in BSWQA's quality journey as the principal leader for initiatives such as Patient Centered Medical Home recognition and Generic Prescribing. Dr. Massey is also highly involved in developing the Care Coordination program for BSWQA as well developing quality metrics and protocols to improve patient care.

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When depression hits home, know you are not alone