Is Depression a Preventable Condition?

Depression is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental health conditions in the world. Major depressive disorder (MDD) impairs an individual’s ability to function on many levels. The emotional dysfunction that occurs as a result of MDD can negatively impact professional and personal relationships and can have serious effects on the well-being of those living with the depressed individual. Social resources are available for people experiencing depression. But financial limitations and geographical obstacles often limit the access to these invaluable resources. The Institute of Medicine issued a report in 2009 that suggested that depression can actually be prevented. Ricardo F. Munoz of the Department of Psychiatry at San Francisco General Hospital at the University of California recently addressed this theory in a recently published paper.

Munoz believes that there are many ways to minimize the risk for a major depressive episode (MDE). Doing so could lead to the delay or avoidance of MDD altogether. However, Munoz also believes that prevention entails many phases. For instance, prevention efforts should begin prior to onset of MDE with educational strategies that teach high-risk individuals how to cope with stressful life events. Adolescents facing major transitions need different coping tools than people who are dealing with MDE from posttraumatic stress. Identifying needs and designing prevention programs to address those specific needs could allow educators, clinicians, and counselors to deliver essential information to people before they experience an MDE.

The other key aspects of overall prevention include treatment and maintenance. Treatment takes place after MDD occurs and can decrease symptom severity and prevent future episodes. Maintenance is vital to ensuring that clients continue to practice the steps necessary to maintain mental well-being. Munoz likens the prevention of MDD to the prevention of the flu. A vaccine is available for those most at risk (prevention), treatment in the form of external and internal remedies are required to minimize the symptoms of the flu (treatment), and instructions for healthy living are given in order to prevent future infections (maintenance). Munoz also emphasizes that MDD is a global concern that must be fought on a local scale. He added, “Creating interventions that address the major contributors to the global burden of disease, starting in one’s own community, is very important.”

Munoz, R. F., Beardslee, W. R., Leykin, Y. (2012). Major depression can be prevented. American Psychologist 67.4: 285-295.

© Copyright 2012 All rights reserved.

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  • john david

    June 29th, 2012 at 3:14 PM

    The this means that if it needs to be addressed beforwe the onset of a major depressive episode then we have to find ways that more accurately gives us a better picture who will or will not be the most at risk to experience this in their lives.

    This means delving into family histories and working with people within a given community all of the time. Where are we to get the money for those kinds of programs? Who is going to head this up? And are we really ready for all of this meddling in our lives by people we don’t even know?

    I am just playing devil’s advocate here because I think that we all recognize that more preventive services is the way to go to really get this epidemic under control. But truthfully are we ready for someone to be in our business all the time in the hopes that they can keep just one more person from having a major depressive episode? I think that there are a lot more people than not who will get more that a little uncomfortable with this concept.

  • Praytor

    June 29th, 2012 at 5:07 PM

    this implies that if we just did more, more, more that we could prevent depression for occurring
    but it is not always so easy
    there of course will be some cases that you could prevent but there will always be those who will fall through the cracks
    or who will be so severely affected that nothing could prevent its onset
    now who’s to say that maybe the effects couldn’t be lessened with earlier treatment and intervention?
    still a maybe
    but there is never going to be any kind of guaranteed way to completely avoid someone who is destined to become depressed to face the illness

  • dylan

    June 30th, 2012 at 5:52 AM

    Preventable? Are you kidding me? Don’t you think that if depression was preventable then there would be mental health care professionals everywhere lining up to administer the treatment? This is just not true. I know that there are things that we can do to take care of ourselves and our families, but there is only so much that we can do. Keep yourself healthy, happy, engaged, and stimulated. But often that still cannot prevent that wave of depression that so many of us have felt in our lives from time to time. Actually I think it could even be seen as unethical to even suggest that it could be.

  • Jameson

    July 1st, 2012 at 8:18 AM

    Maybe in a perfect world depression is a preventable illness.

    The world is not perfect though, and this is something that I see as treatable but as of right now, not preventable.

  • Gemma

    July 2nd, 2012 at 4:38 AM

    If there is not enuf $ 2 get help, then how is there enuf $ 4 it 2 b prevented?

  • trevor

    July 2nd, 2012 at 12:35 PM

    well I’m no expert in this but I do believe depression is preventable. first and foremost prevention is better than cure so we must all understand that even attempting to prevent depression is a great favor we can all do our ourselves.

    surround yourself with positive cheerful people and that helps quite a bit. start to think positively and view things in a positive light and that goes quite a long way too. many such things, including doing something to distract and uplift yourself in times of feeling low can all help with preventing depression!

  • Cooper g

    July 3rd, 2012 at 4:26 AM

    I think that a lot of what plagues us could be prevented with just a better overall mindset.
    Think positive, and sometimes you can think your way right out of that slump.
    Surrounding yourself with others who are more positve can be very beneficial as well, especially for those who need that support from other people to help them remain in a better frame of mind.
    You have to take care of yourself, and that includes every aspect of your body and soul.
    When you neglect those things, then of course there will be ways that the body and mind turn on you and oyu feel it.
    But when you nurture yourself, then yes, I do think that there will be things that will not touch you and that you can go a long way toward preventing.

  • Les

    July 4th, 2012 at 10:36 AM

    With all due respect Cooper g, fighting and preventing depression is about a whole lot more than just having a better mindset. Don’t you think that I would choose to be happy over being depressed if I could? Of course I would. None of us who deal with this enjoy it or thrive on it but instead have to learn to cope with it and manage the moods and the depression when they come. For some of us it is fought with therapy, for others with medication, and still others who try to battle it on their own. But no matter what most of us who are depressed or who have had to try to fight this would like anything in the world better than where we may be today. Please don’t demean us by just saying that we need to think a little happier and it could all go away.

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