Comorbidity of depression
with cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease
A patient perspective
The presence of depression in people with physical health problems is often overlooked, undertreated and misdiagnosed. For instance, among people suffering from cancer who also have anxiety and/or depression, the mental disorder is recognized only in 20% of them. Equally, physical disorders in people who have a diagnosed depression are often poorly treated or overlooked, the symptoms misattributed as an expression of the mental disorder due to ignorance, stigma or discrimination. Some of the challenges are due to the lifestyles and behavioural choices of people with mental health problems. Risk factors of NCD such as smoking, drinking, obesity and low levels of exercise are all increased in people with depression, although depression can also itself contribute to an increase of these risk factors. People suffering from depression are also more likely not to comply with medical recommendations for preventing and treating CVD. In combination, depression increases the risk of misdiagnosis or poor treatment of NCDs and the presence of n NCD increases the risk of depression, jointly exacerbating each of the conditions, decreasing the quality of life and increasing the risk of mortality for these patients.
It is a spiral of decline and suffering that needs to be broken. This is why proper preventative measures, diagnosis, treatment and monitoring that address and respect both the physical and the mental conditions are essential for the well-being of people. Treatment can only be effective when it addresses all sources of the problem.
All of this requires that patients and practitioners have the proper attitudes and knowledge to identify depression and its comorbidities. National health services need to adapt to the fact that physical conditions and depression do not exist in isolation but are interrelated. Stigma and discrimination must be eliminated as they make it challenging for people with mental disorders to seek and access treatment.
Awareness needs to be raised of the unhealthy habits and other risk factors that increase the risk of these non-communicable diseases and depression, and support and interventions need to be made available. Education and awareness raising of both physicians and people with mental health problems are necessary. Cooperation between the different stakeholders interested in the interface between mental and physical disorders is essential.
Through the proposed project, GAMIAN-Europe will aim to achieve the following:
- Identify the experiences of patients and clinicians and the obstacles to care.
- Raise awareness of the impacts of comorbidity such as stigma and discrimination by providing a patient perspective on this issue.
- Raise awareness of the importance of early intervention of depression to increase the effectiveness of medical treatment.
- Identify health system challenges to offer adequate access and treatment to people with co-morbidity.
- Gather positive and negative care experiences of patients suffering comorbidity.
- Gather success life stories of people who managed and dealt with comorbidity.
- Highlight the importance of treatment and prevention which address both the physical and mental health disorders.
- Encourage a dialogue between patients, clinicians and other stakeholders to be used as a basis for policy recommendations for EU and national policy makers.
If you are interested in supporting this project, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org