Depression Benches Professional Athlete: Why Stigma Still On Rise

Depression sidelined professional Yes, even athletes can suffer from depression. No athlete wants to make headlines for heading home, unfortunately the social stigma attached to depression may have many cricket fans wondering what happened. Depression is an illness, but it”s very misunderstood. The statistics are alarming: major depressive disorder affects 14.8 million American adults and is the leading cause of disability for people ages 15-44.

Indeed, according to new research published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, even with a decade of advocacy from policy makers and healthcare professionals, people still hold prejudices against the mentally ill. For example, 74 percent of respondents reported an unwillingness to work with someone who had an alcohol dependency while 69 percent of respondents reported an unwillingness to let someone with schizophrenia marry into the family.

In good news, results showed a sizable jump in the acceptance of mental illness as a neurobiological disease, from 54 percent in 1996 to 67 percent in 2006 and with a 6 to 13 percent increase across all test indicators. Similarly, a majority of respondents endorsed care for mental illness, with 85 percent of respondents advocating care for those with major depression.

However, public stigma remained high in the 2006 study and relatively unchanged from numbers found in 1996. Maybe this is why so many people stop taking medication.

Dealing with depression is a struggle, but it seems adhering to a treatment plan is the real battle. Researchers at the Catalan Institute of Health in Lleida, Spain conducted a retrospective study of depression patients to pinpoint possible demographic factors that influenced the successful or unsuccessful continuation of treatment. Nearly 50 percent of the subjects had discontinued treatment between their second and fourth month; only 25 percent remained on treatment for more than 11 months. In general, women remained on treatment one month longer than men. According to the results, patients taking multiple antidepressant medications stayed on course the longest. Further research is necessary to determine biological and cultural factors that influence treatment adherence, such as personality, pessimism, and stigma.

For more information on the different types of antidepressant treatment, consult a doctor or counselor.

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  • public stigma remained high “in” the 2006 study

    Do not neglect to note your qualifier, “in the study.” It is significant.

    In reality our knowledge about mental illnesses is expanding and our prejudices waning. Significantly.The “study” is biased.

    Very often people bring their biases to “research.” Such inquiries I call “presearch,” finding what one has chosen to find.

    Harold A. Maio, retired Mental Health Editor

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