Mental Health Matters - World Family Doctor Day 2017: Highlighting Depression

Professor Christopher Dowrick, Chair of the WONCA Working Party for Mental Health writes about Depression as this year's theme for World Family Doctor Day and announces a new clinical resource for consultations.

As family doctors, we can expect about one patient in every seven we see to be depressed. This means it is one of the most common problems we encounter. But it can also be one of the most challenging. The experience of depression causes enormous suffering. It affects patients’ ability to carry out even the simplest everyday tasks. It can have overwhelming effects on relationships with family and friends, and interfere with the ability to earn a living. It may also lead to suicide.

This is why, on World Family Doctor Day 2017, we are focusing on depression. WONCA is determined to reduce the impact of depression on our patients’ lives. Family doctors around the world have a central role to play in ensuring that patients receive the care they need and deserve.

To help you manage the first, crucial consultation with patients who may be depressed, we have created an evidence-based guide.
Depression - an evidence based first consultation

We begin by explaining how common depression is and how patients are most likely to present with physical symptoms. We offer you advice on how to introduce mental health concerns to the consultation. We discuss distress, depression and other mental health problems, and why family doctors may not make a mental health diagnosis. We recommend two screening questions to rule out depression, and explain how to explore further if depression is likely. We encourage family doctors to begin helping depressed patients by empathic listening and non-drug therapies. We advise on keeping antidepressants in reserve, and prescribing them only to those patients who are most likely to benefit. Finally, we recommend seeing the patient again soon.

I hope you find this guide helpful to your own practice, and encourage you to share it with your primary care colleagues.

You can also link into the World Health Organisation’s Lets Talk campaign

Chris Dowrick

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