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The Facts | NNDC

The Facts

The facts about depression, bipolar illness and related mood disorders speak for themselves. With proper diagnosis and intervention, all are highly treatable or manageable conditions. Yet these illnesses remain largely defined by the many areas where the best efforts of healthcare providers, researchers, academics, politicians, community leaders, patients and families are falling short.  Too often, public perceptions of mental illness are ill-informed and sufferers are misunderstood and stigmatized. Gaps exist in the delivery and utilization of care, and under-diagnosis and misdiagnosis are common. These trends are exacerbated by a significant shortage of providers trained in evidence-based treatment practices. And in comparison with other health science fields, mood disorders research remains severely underfunded. 

To understand these truths is to understand the imperative of the National Network of Depression Centers. Familiarize yourself with the facts, and join with us to transform the future for all of those touched by depression and bipolar illnesses.

(Please note that NNDC members cannot respond to email requests for specific recommendations regarding treatment. Diagnosis and treatment are complex and highly individualized processes that require comprehensive face-to-face assessment. Please visit the Appointments and Referrals page for more information.)

Others have charted a way forward for us.

The obstacles seem insurmountable. Yet modern medicine has overcome similar barriers to progress before. Perhaps the most notable example is found in cancer.

  • FACT: Cancer was once a misunderstood and highly stigmatized disease characterized by poor outcomes, inadequately coordinated research efforts and lack of access to resources and care. However, thanks to a coordinated effort to make cancer a national priority, the field of oncology has been transformed in recent decades, resulting in measurable improvements on every front. 

Learn more about the cancer experience.  We believe that by following a path akin to that pioneered in cancer, we too can chart a course to improved outcomes in depression and bipolar illnesses.

When properly addressed, clinical depression and bipolar illnesses are highly treatable.

Despite many obstacles, we know that for those  who are able to connect with proper diagnosis and care, depressive illnesses are highly treatable and manageable.

  • FACT: Up to 80% of those treated for depression show an improvement in their symptoms, usually within four to six weeks of beginning medication, psychotherapy, support groups or a combination of these approaches
  • FACT: Now that more and more primary care settings are acknowledging depression and discussing treatment options with patients, outcomes are beginning to improve

Each year, more specific guidelines for treating depression and novel treatment options are being developed and adopted. The challenge is to speed the progress of discovery, and close the gap in access to care.

Clinical depression and bipolar illnesses command only a fraction of research funding.

Only a tiny fraction of public and private research funding goes toward the scientific research that holds the key to unlocking the mysteries of depressive illnesses. Yet, in comparison with the public and private support for addressing other dire medical conditions, research funding for depression and bipolar illnesses lags exceedingly behind.

  • FACT: Research into depression and bipolar illness receives just 1/4 of the funding made available in cancer research.

One of the most discouraging realities of depressive illnesses is the very high rates of relapse.

In many instances, the first approach tried with a patient is unsuccessful, and patients too often fail to adhere to prescribed therapies over time. Along with others, the following factors contribute to a culture of relapse:

  • FACT: In the case of antidepressant medications, less than half of patients gain consistent benefit from their initial treatment
  • FACT: An estimated 50% of unsuccessful treatment for depression is the result of medical non-compliance
  • FACT: Half of patients discontinue their antidepressant medication after just six months of use
  • FACT: Premature discontinuation of antidepressants increases the risk of relapse and recurrence by 77%

Clinical depression and bipolar illnesses are still largely misunderstood.

Clinical depression and bipolar illnesses are still largely misunderstood by the general public, and often underdiagnosed and inadequately treated by the medical community.
Despite a growing body of data about these illnesses and an ever-increasing menu of evidence-based treatment options, both patients and healthcare professionals still lack basic knowledge about what causes these illnesses, and how to effectively manage them over the lifespan. Misdiagnosis is common, and proven evidence-based treatments are underutilized.

  • FACT: It is estimated that one third of those who seek help do not receive adequate treatment over the course of their lives

Clinical depression and bipolar illnesses remain shrouded in stigma and shame.

Too many people choose not to seek diagnosis and treatment for the symptoms of depression or related illnesses because they are ashamed or because they fear isolation and discrimination

  • FACT: Nearly a quarter of Americans still consider depression a sign of personal weakness
  • FACT: That number compares with just 2% who today say the same about cancer, a disease that was itself highly stigmatized just a generation ago

Clinical depression and bipolar illnesses are our nation’s costliest public health concern.

No other category of medical conditions costs our nation more:

  • FACT: It is estimated that depressive illnesses cost our economy over $83 billion annually in lost productivity and increased medical costs

This staggering decrease in worker efficiency reflects in part the tremendous gap between those who actually receive treatment and those who need it

  • FACT: Each year, significantly more is spent on medical care related to these conditions than is spent to treat cancer
  • FACT: At the same time, it has been estimated that up to 50% of people suffering from depression are not currently receiving treatment. 

These statistics begin to paint a picture of the incredible financial burden of depressive illnesses on individuals, families, communities and our nation as a whole

Clinical depression and bipolar illnesses have reached pervasive, arguably epidemic levels.

Depressive illnesses are anything but rare in modern society. We all know someone who has struggled with depression.

  • FACT: By conservative estimates, one in five Americans has firsthand experience with depression, bipolar illness or another mood disorder
  • FACT: In a given year, roughly 21 million Americans, or about 9.5% of the U.S. population age 18 or older, are suffering from a mood disorder
  • FACT: About 11 in 100,000 people die yearly by suicide; mental illness is the number one predictive factor

Clinical depression and bipolar disorder are serious – often fatal – illnesses.

The evidence – which grows more compelling every day – clearly contradicts those who still characterize these conditions as variations of “the blues”

  • FACT: Research has linked depressive illnesses to a weakening of both the body’s immune and cardiovascular systems, setting the stage for the development of other chronic illnesses
  • FACT: Lifelong sufferers of depression face a significantly shorter lifespan than their mentally healthy counterparts
  • FACT: 85% of deaths by suicide can be traced to a diagnosable mental illness
  • FACT: Suicide is the fourth-leading cause of death among Americans aged 18-65, and the third-leading cause of death among those aged 10-24