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National Depression Screening Day Offers Public An Open Invitation To Learn About Treatment Options, Expectations

October, 2001

Source: PRNewswire

Afflicting more than 19 million people, clinical depression ranks among the most serious health concerns in the United States. Sadly, many people suffering from the symptoms of depression are hindered by factors such as stigma and lack of information from ever receiving an official diagnosis of the disorder, according to a recent survey by the National Mental Health Association (NMHA). National Depression Screening Day (NDSD) will be held on October 11 for the tenth consecutive year to help encourage people with symptoms to speak with physicians and learn more about depression.

"We are proud to support National Depression Screening Day and provide this important opportunity to reach out to people who suffer from symptoms of this devastating disease," said Joseph M. Mahady, President of Wyeth-Ayerst North America, a sponsor of NDSD and the discoverer and developer of the antidepressant Effexor(R) XR (venlafaxine HCl) Extended Release Capsules. "Last year, more than 100,000 people participated in the event, and an estimated 65 percent followed recommendations to undergo a complete evaluation by a mental health professional. Such success demonstrates that the program is an effective tool to help raise awareness of an often misunderstood and underdiagnosed condition."

NDSD was created in 1991 through support from the American Psychiatric Association. Held annually during Mental Illness Awareness Week, it is one of several community-based programs offered by Screening for Mental Health, Inc. (SMHI). SMHI is a nonprofit organization that coordinates nationwide mental health screening programs and ensures cooperation, professionalism, and accountability in mental illness screenings.

According to the survey by NMHA, the gap between prevalence and diagnosis of depression is attributed to several commonly held beliefs: symptoms are not associated with a disorder; symptoms can be self-treated; diagnosis, itself, is stigmatized; and treatment won't bring about relief of symptoms. In addition, studies have shown that depressed people often suffer from coexisting generalized anxiety disorder, a chronic, debilitating disease characterized by excessive worry, anxiety, and tension that last for more than six months -- further complicating proper diagnosis.

Demystifying the Disease, Assessing Its Treatment

On NDSD, people can visit registered sites and attend free educational presentations, pick up detailed information on mental health disorders, and answer brief, anonymous questionnaires on depression and manic depression. In addition, participants may take advantage of an on-site physician evaluation and, if diagnosed, they then may be referred to a mental health specialist to discuss treatment options. All screenings are free and completely anonymous.

"Too often, people accept their symptoms and go on to lead compromised lives rather than seek help," said John Tierney, M.D., Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Texas at San Antonio. "When properly diagnosed, people with depression can reasonably expect that the right treatment -- whether psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy, or a combination of both -- will improve symptoms and lead to remission, the virtual elimination of the symptoms of depression. We must let depressed people know that treatment can help them return to normal levels of functioning."

For more information on National Depression Screening Day or to locate a screening site in your area, call 1-800-520-6373 or log on to http://www.mentalhealthscreening.org.

About Depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Major depressive disorders, which include depression, affect an estimated 340 million people worldwide. The World Heath Organization recently concluded that depression is the world's fourth greatest public health problem. If left untreated, the effects of depression can be devastating, robbing people of the energy or motivation to perform everyday activities and, in some cases, leading to suicide. Symptoms of the disorder include feelings of sadness or emptiness, lack of interest or pleasure in nearly all activities, and feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt. In addition to the personal costs of depression, the disease also results in more than $40 billion in annual costs in the United States alone due to premature death, lost productivity and absenteeism.

Generalized anxiety disorder affects an estimated 183 million people worldwide, the majority of whom are women. The anxiety and worry exhibited by patients are associated with three or more of the following symptoms: restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbances. Many people with generalized anxiety disorder also experience symptoms such as sweating, nausea, or diarrhea. Due to the chronic nature of generalized anxiety disorder and its negative impact on overall health, accurate diagnosis and proven long-term treatment are crucial.



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