Broadcaster Jane Pauley is the latest in a line of public figures (including Barbara Bush and astronaut Buzz Aldrin) to go public with their depression. But many with chronic blues resist treatment, says health insurance giant Aetna, the sponsor of a new depression education site (www.reawake.com).
Depression is a leading cause of disability and is linked to most chronic diseases, according to Hyong Un, medical director for Aetna Behavioral Health. The company hopes the site helps steer some reluctant patients toward treatment, he said.
Few health sites are this user-friendly. Click on the "Library" tab for a brief but thorough description of such treatment options as medication, psychotherapy and behavior modification. "Find Information" takes you to a comprehensive index, including links to descriptions of antidepressant drugs.
Health insurers have traditionally discouraged mental health treatment by limiting benefits. So what gives? Is Aetna priming the public to accept premium increases or new out-of-pocket costs? No, said Un. It's controlling costs associated with nontreatment -- lost productivity and worsening health.
Web site visitors aren't asked to identify themselves. But Aetna is keeping tabs on how users respond to the site's many interactive questions. Un says he's interested in whether people who say they will change their behavior or seek treatment after accessing the site actually do.