Know the Facts: Change the Facts

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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.

Disheartening, yes, but not in light of the fact that depression is not a terminal illness. It is treatable. Unfortunately, many people allow it to go on for far too long, or even worse, ignore it altogether. The big tragedy is that only 2 out of 3 sufferers will seek medical advice.  This is a very dangerous proposition, as two thirds of all suicides are due to depression, accounting for 30,000 of the reported suicides in the US every year.

Not addressing depression until it becomes out of control can and does result in many people of all ages taking their own lives. In fact, US suicide rates are higher than homicide rates. Suicide and depression statistics are horrifying, yet not when we look at the hopefulness of this statistic: 80% of depression cases can be properly resolved with medication and/or a support group or therapy, within 4 to 6 weeks of treatment. Of those who do not respond to depression treatment, 50% of those subjects fail to improve because of medical non-compliance. This is why once therapy has begun, it’s imperative for those with depression to follow their doctor’s instructions carefully regarding treatment.  Stopping medications too soon can result in a relapse of depression and/or unwanted side effects.

Who is at risk?

Certain people have a greater disposition for depression and suicide, including women (although men are at a disadvantage too, as they tend to seek treatment less often than women), children, and the elderly. Depression in women is twice as likely as in men. While men are more likely to successfully take their own lives in depression, women are twice as likely to attempt suicide. Additionally, postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis are two other disorders of depression that women are prone to after child birth. There is also a strong link between eating disorders and depression.

As for children and the elderly, depression statistics are just as prevalent and unfortunate for them. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for children ages 15 to 24 years old and the fourth leading cause of death for children aged 10 to 14 with as many as 1 in 33 children having clinical depression and 1 in 8 adolescents having it as well. For the elderly, the Center for Disease Control reported in 2004 that those 65 and older accounted for 16% of suicide deaths in that year.

Statistics: what’s helping?

According to many current studies, cognitive behavioral therapy has resulted in a 50% improvement in suicide attempts from previous suicide behavior.  Another therapy that has proved successful in studies has been dialectical behavioral therapy, a form of therapy that is particularly helpful for people with borderline personality disorder. Medication has also proven to be a line of defense, particularly an antipsychotic called clozapine, a drug approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration for suicide prevention in people with schizophrenia.

There are many statistical charts on depression that one can refer to, from statistics on depression in college students to statistical data from all kinds of demographic perspectives. There is no shortage of information about depression, but what is most valuable about these statistics, of course, is the awareness that they can bring to people suffering from depression or to those who love someone who is affected by it.

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