Encouraging patients to talk with a physician about depression : the transition to a print medium

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Champlin, Sara Elizabeth

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Major depression is a prevalent and harmful illness in the United States. About 7% of Americans experience depressive symptoms each year. Leaving depression untreated can result in poor general health and increased susceptibility to severe health risks such as suicide. Although there exists a variety of effective treatment methods for depression, the National Health and Nutrition Survey 2005-2006 reports that less than 30% of depressed individuals will be seen by a mental health care professional. It is essential that current efforts work toward encouraging depressed persons to seek treatment. A number of health promotion campaigns for mental health have tried reaching depressed individuals with little success. Created through a series of projects conducted with depressed men and women, Faces of Depression is a messaging strategy campaign that may prove highly effective with this audience. The campaign utilized video and computer program media in health clinic waiting areas to encourage patients with depressive symptoms to seek help from a primary care physician. These forms of media often capture attention; however, they also require many resources that may not be readily available at a health clinic. The purpose of the present study was to determine whether a cost-sensitive poster version of the Faces of Depression campaign would be an effective alternative to the original media. Undergraduate students completed an online survey concerning their willingness to discuss depression with a physician and their reactions to the health poster. Some had previously sought help from a mental health professional (33%), yet few had received treatment for depression (11%). However, 48% of the participants met the criteria for having current depressive symptoms. Although scores for the posters’ visual elements were low, the idea of the poster in a health clinic waiting area was well received by those currently depressed and non-depressed. Moreover, non-depressed persons were likely to indicate that they would seek help in response to the poster if experiencing depressive symptoms. The study is limited by poster design elements. Amendments to these aesthetic details would likely increase poster effectiveness. Future research should ensure that health promotion materials target those currently experiencing symptoms, especially men.




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