Computer program prompts patients to talk about depression

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In a recent study, patients who used an interactive computer program about depression prior to seeing their primary care physician were twice as likely to ask about depression and significantly more likely to receive a recommendation for antidepressant drugs or a referral for mental health assessment.

The study was initiated to evaluate the effectiveness of a waiting-room intervention that encourages primary care patients to discuss depression symptoms. While most patients did not report improved mental health 12 weeks later, the study did show that the computer program facilitated an important first step in discussion about mental health.

Tool helps to identify symptoms

“We have developed an easy-to-use tool to help people with depression identify the symptoms, feel more comfortable discussing it with a primary-care provider and accept treatment if it is needed,” explained Anthony Jerant, professor of family and community medicine at UC Davis and senior author of the study. “This brief and relatively inexpensive intervention could be easily and widely implemented in a variety of health-care settings.”

Depression is often overlooked during typical primary care visits. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that nationally about 10 percent of adults report symptoms of depression. The National Institute of Mental Health says that depression affects 14.8 million Americans adults every year. Left untreated, depression impacts society, jeopardizes relationships and threatens employment. Depression will decrease quality of life, may lead to drug and alcohol abuse, and can increase an individual's risk of suicide.

Sources: MedicalNewsToday, Journal of the American Medical Association

 
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