Depression epidemic can be stopped

The prediction by the World Health Organisation that by the year 2020 depression would be our second biggest health problem after heart disease does not have to come true, according to University of Canberra Professor of Psychology, Bob Montgomery.

While he has welcomed the increased focus on depression by Federal and State governments, Bob Montgomery has been critical of the emphasis on further research rather than delivery of effective services to depressed people.

"We already know a great deal about the causes of depression and we already have a range of effective treatments for it," he said.

"Of course, further research to increase our knowledge and treatment efficacy is desirable but, if we are serious about reducing the impact of depression on individual Australians and the community in general, what we most need now is better access to already established treatments."

"The sad fact is that today the majority of Australians suffering mental illness, including depression, will receive no treatment," Professor Montgomery said.

"And many of those who do get treatment will be offered only antidepressant drugs when there are other treatments, particularly psychosocial treatments, that are at least as effective as drug treatments, without undesirable side-effects and with the real possibility of curing a sufferer’s depression, not just temporarily reducing the symptoms.

"We shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. For some patients, antidepressant drugs will be the best treatment, but for some they won't. People struggling with depression have a right to know about, and to have ready access to, all of the established treatments for depression."

Professor Montgomery will be giving a public lecture on depression and its treatment to mark the Australian Psychological Society’s National Psychology Week, at 6pm on Tuesday 9 November at University House at the ANU.

The meeting, sponsored by the ACT Branch of the Australian Psychological Society, will first be addressed by Mr Simon Corbell, ACT Minister for Health, who will talk on the ACT Government’s response to mental health needs in the community.

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For further information regarding his lecture, contact Professor Montgomery on 6201 2535 or 0419 706 582; for further details regarding the meeting, contact Neil Woodger, Chair of the ACT APS Branch, on 6205 1957 or 0402 026 067.