According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, 19 million Americans suffer from depression, but, as reported in a 2003 study in the Journal of the American Medical Society, less than 22% of individuals diagnosed with depression receive adequate treatment. Major depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States and is a leading cause of missed work days and poor worker performance. Depression also has a large negative impact on childhood development, academic performance, and general social well-being. It is a major contributor to death by suicide.
A serious problem with our mental health system is that it is episodic, crisis-oriented and reactionary. Instead, it should be focusing on prevention, proactive treatment and long-term wellness. We must break down the barrier of stigma; the stigma of seeking care, the stigma of receiving care, the stigma of being labeled. To have a significant impact on the many "costs" of this illness, we need to ensure early screening and detection of depression and access to effective treatment (psychopharmacologic and psychosocial). In many cases early treatment can prevent depression from worsening and limit long-term disability. The system needs to change its focus.
We all have a stake in this matter. Any other illness that could be screened for and treated, but wasn't, would raise a cry of foul. Why should this illness be any different?