African Americans And Whites Differ In Depression Risk, treatment

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Although African Americans are less likely than whites to have a major depressive disorder, when they do, it tends to be more chronic and severe according to a recent report published by the National Institute of Mental Health. In addition, African Americans are much less likely to undergo treatment. Of those with major depression, less than half receive treatment. Nationally, African Americans are more likely to be served in emergency rooms and public psychiatric hospitals than outpatient facilities. Common barriers include access to care, attitudes about seeking help, and lack of community support.

"Imagine the consequences of not getting care for chronic and severe diabetes," said Gwen Skinner, Director for the Georgia Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Addictive Diseases. "Untreated depression is just as costly, and much like diabetes, depression is manageable."

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The study revealed that a greater proportion of African Americans, compared to whites, reported severe or very severe impairment of their daily activities (74.4% versus 63.6%). But when daily activities were broken down into home, work, relationships, and social activities, the report found that significantly more blacks reported impairment of their social function than whites (55% versus 34%).

Skinner believes that educating communities about where and how to get help is key. "The more we openly discuss the benefits of getting help, the better outcomes we will see." For those 65 years old, Medicare pays for 50 percent of the costs of mental health treatment and will typically reimburse the remainder. Many low-income or disabled residents may also be eligible for Medicaid coverage.

Counseling by a certified pastoral counselor is often covered by health care plans if the pastoral counselor is licensed by the state. In addition, a person's workplace may also have an employee assistance program (EAP) available to provide counseling or to help identify appropriate care.

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