Depression and mood disorders

Education, research on the rise as stigma remains in place.

By Chelsea Nichols

One in five Americans will experience some sort of mood disorder. Despite this commonality, one in four views this as a sign of personal weakness. Jesse H. Wright, MD, PhD, director, the University of Louisville Depression Center hopes to change this. He is on a quest to remove the stigma of mood disorders.

People suffering from depression, bipolar disease or other mood disorders may feel ashamed embarrassed or fear isolation. Those same people shy away from help and treatment. Wright is convincing people that there’s no reason to feel ashamed. He likens the illness to cancer. Cancer is unfortunate, but people aren’t ashamed and most seek treatment. Like cancer, depression and mood disorders are illnesses and can be treated.

“There are known treatments that are evidence based that are not currently offered to people who need them,” said Wright, who with his daughter, Laura McCray, a family physician co-authored the book “Breaking Free from Depression: Pathways to Wellness” (The Guilford Press, 2012).


& Under Diagnosed
The National Network of Depression Centers (NNDC) is a twenty-one member group dedicated to the research and education of depression and other mood disorders. The University of Louisville Depression Center is part of the elite team. Annually, the center receives 25,000 visits, not including children and adolescents. The team of professionals at the center serves as a “resources for the treatment of depression and bipolar disorder, research and education.”

The NNDC reports that the public is miseducated, and professionals often under diagnose their patients. The network blames a lack of basic knowledge on both ends.

One in three Americans who seek treatment does not receive enough treatment over their life time. To make matters worse, relapsing is a common pattern seen among patients.

Past the Stigma
As the opportunity for treatment, research and education progress, it’s important to get people past the stigma. Depressive illnesses cost our economy an estimated $83 billion annually in lost productivity and increasing medical costs according to the network. Mental illnesses also rob us of our livelihoods. Depression is known to weaken the body. Suicide, one of the leading causes of death, often stems from some sort of mood disorder.

It’s not all bad. Eighty percent of those treated for depression show an improvement within four to six weeks, reports the NNDC.

“Researchers are now working on a lab test that can determine the types of prescriptions that would be most effective with your genetic make-up in treating your depression,” Wright said. “There are promising treatments that have been introduced recently with big success, but there will be others.”


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