Dr Michael Thase on the Prevalence of Stigma Surrounding Major Depressive Disorder

Stigma is less prevalent now than it was 20 or 30 years ago, but people still often equate depression with weakness, explained Michael Thase, MD, professor of psychiatry and director of the Mood and Anxiety Program at the University of Pennsylvania.

Stigma is less prevalent now than it was 20 or 30 years ago, but people still often equate depression with weakness, explained Michael Thase, MD, professor of psychiatry and director of the Mood and Anxiety Program at the University of Pennsylvania.

TranscriptHow prevalent is stigma surrounding major depressive disorder?

I think stigma is less prevalent today than it was 20 or 30 years ago, and there have been efforts, including the National Institute of Mental Health’s DART [Depression Awareness, Recognition and Treatment] Program in the 1980s and 1990s. I think efforts of the pharmaceutical industry through director-to-consumer advertisement is one way of kind of making treatments that are known to work more known to our patients.

Nevertheless, people often still equate the term depression with weakness and believe strategies like pulling yourself up by your boot straps or simply not telling anyone about it and hoping it will go away will be remedies. Because some episodes of depression do remit without treatment—the spontaneous remission rates are maybe as high as 30% or 40% across a year. People, if they do wait and see or just hope, sometimes do get better. But, each month you suffer with depression, each month it goes untreated, your kids suffer, your job suffers because depression is the largest cause of presenteeism and absenteeism in the workplace.

So, the impact of the illness tends to build, and in the long run, that makes it harder to treat.