Twenty percent of Americans have a diagnosable mental disorder, but fear
and shame can prevent them from seeking help. That message rang through the
halls of Holliswood Hospital in Queens, N.Y., in June at an event titled"
Community Connections: Let's Talk Depression."
The event, the last in a yearlong series of community-based educational
programs sponsored by the American Psychiatric Foundation, provided audience
members with information and resources about depression and other mental
illnesses and an opportunity to ask questions about treatment options in their
These events help remove the stigma of mental illness and demonstrate that
for people living with a mental illness, there is help, there is treatment,
and—as Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D., who hosted the event in New York
stated—there is hope.
The speakers were mental health experts from New York and across the
country, including Borenstein, chief executive officer and medical director of
the Holliswood Hospital and chair of the APA Council on Communications; Carol
Bernstein, M.D., APA president-elect and associate dean for graduate medical
education at Bellevue Hospital Center; Annelle Primm, M.D., director of APA's
Office of Minority and National Affairs; James Nininger, M.D., a clinical
associate professor of psychiatry at Cornell University Medical College; and
Janet Susin, president of NAMI of Queens/Nassau.
The event covered a wide range of depression-related topics including
warning signs, treatment, and the impact on culturally diverse populations and
Bernstein, who introduced the program, explained that major depression
affects about 8 percent to 10 percent of the population and tends to run in
families. Depression, however, is treatable with medication, psychotherapy,
and other approaches, resulting in 80 percent to 90 percent of patients
eventually responding well, and almost all gaining some relief from their
Primm, who discussed disparities in mental health care for diverse
cultures, stated that the disparities are often based on factors of economics
and cultural experiences. "African Americans carry a heavy burden when
it comes to depression, because they are less likely than Caucasians to seek
mental health services or to receive proper diagnosis and treatment. They are
also more likely to have depression for longer periods, resulting in greater
disability," she said.
Discussions on depression also focused on the impact the illness has on
untreated older adults. Nininger shed some light on the issue of depression
taking a heavy toll on older adults if left untreated.
Nininger pointed out that depression is a common problem in the elderly;
they face such issues as death of a spouse, chronic medical problems, and
social exclusion. However, only a small percentage of elderly people get the
help they need. "Some assume seniors have good reason to be down or that
depression is just part of aging. This can lead to depression, especially for
those with no support system in place," he said. "If you learn how
to spot the signs of depression and seek treatment, the golden years can
certainly be happy and vibrant."
Borenstein said, "Increasing community members' ability to identify
depression in common settings such as school, work, and home and to tell them
where to seek help in their community is an incredible tool we offer with this
educational program. Providing communities with an increased understanding of
the importance of early recognition and treatment of depression will result in
overall community health and well-being." ▪