Needed: A national effort to fight depression

by David Silbersweig, MD
Published in the Boston Globe on June 21, 2018

The recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain are prominent examples of a rising trend. They add to the daily opiate overdoses in all our communities to make an urgent point: our country needs a nationally coordinated effort to address a major underlying cause — depression.

Depression is a root illness. It affects one out of five people and nearly every family. It is a major contributor to suffering, workplace expenses, premature death, and the full range of medical illnesses, including diabetes and heart disease. It is emerging as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s dementia, and affects many caregivers. It plays a role in violence and shootings. It is the leading cause of world disability (World Health Organization data place it above cancer and heart disease), and costs $210 billion per year in the United States, in health care and associated costs and lost job productivity. Recent data confirm it is closely associated with the recent surge of opioid deaths, and it remains the most common precipitant of death by suicide.