Extreme Makeover Home Edition’ designer Paige Hemmis, a person who established her career helping families deal with depression, recently revealed that she has depression. “I was in denial. I was helping so many families deal with horribly depressing things and I thought who am I to say I’m depressed,” said Hemmis. She gained 25 pounds and couldn’t sleep. Still, it was a surprise when her doctor diagnosed her as having depression. “At first I was like what . . . But, part of me in the back of my mind was like there’s a name for this…..”
Dr. John Burruss of the Baylor College of Medicine says, “Ignoring depression is like ignoring any other medical condition. As it gets worse, it gets harder to treat and harder to bring you back out of it.” Burruss and Hemmis are currently working on what they call Blueprint for Hope, a program to encourage people with depression to seek medical help. Hemmis works every day on her depression treatment plan. “I’m sure a lot of people see me and say she’s not depressed, or it might be a shock to find out I’m dealing with depression and it might inspire someone else to get help.”
This not the first program Hemmis has helped raise awareness and support for. She has worked with the Habitat for Humanity as a spokesperson for the Greater Los Angeles Habitat for Humanity affiliate and has appeared on International Builders Shows to promote similar public service announcements throughout the country. “Every day I see how much of a difference one person can make to a family.”
Depression affects 16.5 million American adults
Drawing on data from a survey in 2007, SAMHSA reports that over 16.5 million Americans over age 18 experienced at least one bout of major depression last year. That equates to 1 in 13 adults. Fewer than 64.5 % received treatment for their depression.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) conducted a study in 2007 of approximately 45,000 non-institutionalized adult. They defined a major depressive episode as being two or more weeks with a depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, and at least four other symptoms such as poor self-image, lack of appetite or loss of sleep.
More than 43% of those not receiving treatment for their depression listed cost as the primary factor. Twenty-nine percent said they could deal with the depression on their own. Eighteen percent said they did not know where to get help, and 17% said they didn’t have the time to seek out help. The lack of health insurance coverage was sited by 11.3%, and fears about confidentiality kept another 11.1% from getting help. The rates of major depression were found to be highest among the 18 to 25 year olds in the study with 8.9% reporting a major depressive episode. In the 26 to 49 year old group, 8.5 % reported at least one episode. This compared to 5.8 percent in the 50 and older age group. Of those reporting depressive episodes, 14.2% who described their health status as “fair” to “poor” reported depressive episodes and 4.3% who described their health status as ‘good” reported a major depressive episode. SAMHSA’s Acting Administrator, Dr. Eric Broderick was quoted in an agency news release as saying, “ Depression is a medical condition that should be treated with the same urgency as any other medical condition.”
Anyone experiencing depression should at least consult their primary care practitioner for evaluation. Depression, like any other mental illness, is a biological brain disorder that is treatable with medication as well as other modalities. Without treatment, depression can worsen and severely affect general health status as well as quality of life issues.