Doctors Need to Help Recognize Depression

ROCHESTER, N.Y., May 26 (UPI) — Primary care physicians could improve the recognition and treatment of depression and reduce its stigma, U.S. researchers say.

Dr. Ronald Epstein of the University of Rochester Medical Center, who is director of the Rochester Center to Improve Communication in Health Care, suggested physicians endeavor to reduce blame and stigma while helping patients name their distress and provide explanations for the depression that conform to patients’ experiences.

His recommendations for physicians, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, included advising physicians not to depend on symptom checklists but to adjust their view to a patient’s experience.

Doctors, the researchers said, need to explain how personality, social and genetic factors make some people vulnerable to depression — without making the patient feel at fault. Despite patients’ doubts, doctors also need to emphasize there are effective depression treatments, Epstein says.

Epstein and colleagues used surveys and focus groups involving 116 people — ages 25 to 64 — in Rochester, N.Y.; Austin, Texas; and Sacramento who had reported a personal history of depression. Transcripts were coded line by line to determine which cognitive and communicative processes were hindering or enabling discussion of depression.

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