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Professional News
Communities Learn About Depression Via Foundation Outreach Project
Psychiatric News
Volume 44 Number 16 page 16-16

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." FIG1

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From left: Glenn Martin, M.D., Area 2 Assembly deputy representative; Paul Burke, executive director of the American Psychiatric Foundation; James Nininger, M.D., APA Area 2 trustee; Annelle Primm, M.D., director of APA's Office of Minority and National Affairs; Janet Susin, president of NAMI of Queens/Nassau; Deborah Cross, M.D., Area 2 Assembly representative; Carol Bernstein, M.D., APA president-elect; and Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D., medical director of Holliswood Hospital. 

Credit: Rhondalee Dean-Royce

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 communities.

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 the elderly.

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 symptoms.

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." ▪

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From left: Glenn Martin, M.D., Area 2 Assembly deputy representative; Paul Burke, executive director of the American Psychiatric Foundation; James Nininger, M.D., APA Area 2 trustee; Annelle Primm, M.D., director of APA's Office of Minority and National Affairs; Janet Susin, president of NAMI of Queens/Nassau; Deborah Cross, M.D., Area 2 Assembly representative; Carol Bernstein, M.D., APA president-elect; and Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D., medical director of Holliswood Hospital. 

Credit: Rhondalee Dean-Royce

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