The recent finding by government epidemiologists that fewer than half of the seriously depressed people in this country were under treatment for their disorder has led to plans for a major national educational campaign on mood disorders and their treatment.
A new program being set up by Dr. Shervert H. Frazier, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, is expected to get under way later this year, aimed at a three-part audience. It is called Depression Awareness, Recognition and Treatment Campaign (D/ART).
For the mental health provider, the D/ART program will help increase the recognition that the broad biological factors in these disorders do not conflict with the psychology in them, but instead, the two interact and are best treated together.
For the family practitioner, D/ART will provide help in diagnosing a cascade of physiological symptoms -- eating disorders, sleeping problems, loss of energy -- as a single entity, instead of trying to deal with each symptom as a separate problem.
For the public at large, and for the families of depressed patients, it is important to help them recognize and identify clinical depression.
Said Dr. Robert M.A. Hirschfeld, who is clinical director of the D/ART project: "People can have all the symptoms and may just think of it as chronic stress or exhaustion due to chronic stress. They don't necessarily say, 'Gee, I've got depression.'
"And what we want to do is get people thinking, identifying.
"I mean, they may say they're unhappy, or not themselves, or not feeling well, and many doctors are reluctant to talk in emotional or psychiatric terms because of the stigma.
"But," said Hirschfeld, "stigma is reduced as effective treatments become more available."
No depressed person, Hirschfeld said, should ever have to hear anyone say, "Hey, now, you've just got to get your life together."