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Health Disparity Advocacy: Clinical Depression in the U.S.

Depression is one of the most prevalent mental illnesses in the U.S. Recent statistics show that approximately more than 10 million people suffer from severe depression each year in the U.S. It is further predicted that at least 5 million people suffer from subsyndroma depression which is a precursor to severe depression (Wagner & Gayner, 2010). Depression is one of the leading causes of suicide and as it has been found through research, it is more prevalent among the elderly population, i.e. people aged 65 and above. Also, more cases of subsyndroma depression have been found among the older population.

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The probability of suffering from depression among the elderly population is increased by the presence of other illnesses and by aging. Though cases of depression have been found to increase with age, this illness is not a normal element of the aging process. While some emotional disturbances such as sadness, grief from bereavement, and short-lived bad moods are normal during old-age, continuous depression is not. Constant depression has a negative impact on a person’s ability to function properly and, consequently, his or her productivity. There has always been a misconception that severe depression is a normal reaction to the presence of other diseases, and to social and financial struggles. As a consequence, many people in these situations are reluctant to seek medical attention when they notice signs of depression. However, depression is a serious mental illness and, thus, it should be diagnosed and treated when it occurs.

Prevalence of Depression in Different Racial/Ethnic Groups

Research studies indicate that some communities in the U.S. are at a higher risk of suffering from depression than others. The risk is greatest among non-Hispanic whites where 15.8 of every 100,000 people suffer from serious depression. Among the Hispanics, 7.9 per every 100,000 persons suffer from severe depression, while in non-Hispanic blacks, the statistics are 5 per every 100,000 persons (Wells & Stewart, 2008).

Depression-Related Suicides among Older Adults in the U.S.

As previously mentioned, depression is one of the leading causes of suicide among the U.S. population. Since there are more cases of serious depression in the older population, it has also been found that depression-related suicides are also highest in this age-group. In 2009, for example, the age-group of 65 years and above accounted for 16 percent of all suicide cases in the U.S. although the age groups forms only 12 percent of the total U.S. population. Also, 14.3 of every 100,000 people aged above 65 died by suicide while the statistic for the general population was 11 percent for every 100,000 persons. Research in year 2010 showed that non-Hispanics whites aged 85 and above were more likely to die of suicide than any other group. Their suicide statistics were 49.8 deaths for every 100,000 persons.

Studies have shown that with proper diagnosis and treatment mechanisms, most cases of depression-caused suicide can be prevented. In fact, it has been reported that more than 75 percent of people who die from depression-related suicide visit a physician at least one month before their death. The findings stress the importance of putting in place proper depression diagnosis and treatment mechanisms in order to identify potential suicide victims. With such measures, suicide deaths from depression can be reduced dramatically (Broadhead & Blazer, 2010).

Federal Funding for Depression related Illnesses

The federal budget for mental-related illnesses in general and for depression in particular has been increasing over time. In the fiscal year 2010, a total of 1.9 billion dollars was allocated by the U.S. federal government to treatment of depression and depression-related illnesses in the U.S. This funding is given in the form of government grant. The government also allocated $48 million to the prevention of depression-triggered suicide, and a further $23 million to the program for creating population awareness regarding preventing depression. Other mental health programs that received substantial funding during this fiscal year included the program for promoting childhood development of mental and physical health which received a total of $121 million, and the one for preventing youth violence, which received $94 million (Katon, 2009).

Strategies for fighting Depression Illness in the U.S.

In order to reduce cases of serious depression among the U.S. population, it requires concerted efforts from the government (both state and federal), the medical profession and the general public. The following strategies have been found to be effective in fighting severe depression and the related suicides:

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Public Education

Creating awareness among the general public regarding the dangers and signs of severe depression is one of the most effective ways of ensuring that this disease is diagnosed and treated before complications can occur. Both the government and medical practitioners have a responsibility of sensitizing the public on the dangers of depression and how it can be prevented, detected, or treated (Greenberg & Kessler, 2009).

Healthcare Reforms

There is need to reform the healthcare system in the U.S. to increase access to mental health for the public. Such reforms could take the form of a universal health plan or low-cost medical insurance plans targeted at the poorer populations. These reforms can be carried out by passing the necessary legislations.

Creating Social Media Outreach

Social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, has become a very powerful marketing tool in modern world, for both business and non-business purposes. This campaign platform is especially very relevant to the youth who are also deeply affected by severe depression.

Increasing Federal Funding for Depression Illnesses

Although the current federal funding for serious depression is significant, there is need to increase this funding in order to take care of the rising incidents of serious depression in the U.S. More money is required, for instance, to hire more staff and for training the existing ones on the best ways of recognizing and treating serious depression.

Sensitizing the Business Community

Most of the victims of severe depression are part of the U.S. workforce. Since they spend a large part of their time at the workplace, there is need to educate employers on how they should help workers deal with stress that may lead to serious depression.


Broadhead, W & Blazer, G 2010, Depression, disability days, and days lost from work in a prospective epidemiologic survey, JAMA 21:264(19):2524–8.

Greenberg, P & Kessler, R 2009, The economic burden of depression in the United States: How did it change between 2006 and 2008? J Clin Psychiatry 64(12):1465–75.

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Katon, W 2009, Clinical and health services relationships between major depression, depressive symptoms and general medical illness, Biol Psychiatry 54:216–26.

Wagner, H & Gaynes, B 2010, Minor depression in family practice: Functional morbidity, co-morbidity, service utilization and outcomes, Psychol Med 30:1377–90.

Wells, K & Stewart, A 2008, The functioning and well-being of depressed patients: Results from the Medical Outcomes Study, JAMA 262, 914–9.

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