The Physician's View

by Dr. Grant Mullen
May/Jun 2002

Part 3 of a Series on Emotional Disorders

Has Depression Become an Epidemic?

"I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul (Job 10: 1). He wanted to die, and said, "It would be better for me to die than to live" (Jonah 4:8).

Of all the different kinds of chemical imbalance mood disorders that we will discuss, Depression is by far the most common.

Depression is one of the most undiagnosed and disabling medical conditions in society today. According to many studies, it costs the U.S. economy approximately $27 billion annually in medical costs, lost productivity, unemployment, increased susceptibility to illness, suicide, family disruption, relationship failure, alcohol abuse and personal suffering.

Mental disorders cause a much broader degree of dis­ability than most other medical conditions like back pain, diabetes and heart disease. A psychiatric condition affects all levels of functioning as compared to other diseases which only affect one organ system. Insurance companies are now very concerned at the staggering number of disability claims that are being submitted due to emotional disability. There are several corporations who realize that mental disability has become for them the most common cause of days off work due to illness. They have started prevention and early detection programs for their employees.

Depression is more disabling than most chronic illnesses. Even though there are now very effective treatments available, most people with depression remain undiagnosed and untreated due to lack of awareness and not accepting depression as a legitimate illness. The unnecessary suffering often continues for a lifetime, causing intense mental, emotional and physical anguish, disrupting all relationships both at home and work.

If a person acknowledges this condition and goes for help, they then must endure the unfair stigma of an uninformed public that presumes that depression is a character defect, lack of will power or a personal weakness. Not only does a depressed person have to cope with the illness but also with the scorn of society. No other chronic illness is treated so un­fairly by the public.

Six to ten percent of the population is depressed at any given time. This very common condition is undiagnosed and untreated in eighty percent of its victims. We are a long way from getting treatment to those who need it and yes, it is found in Christians too.

Next issue we will see how men and women differ in how they respond to depression.

Dr. Grant Mullen is a mental health physician in Grimsby, Ontario, Canada. He is the author of Why do I feel so down when my faith should lift me up? May/Jun 2002 Issue