By On February 27th, 2008

It is beneficial for rheumatologists to ask their patients about depression

A recent study reveals that it may be beneficial for rheumatologists to ask their patients about depression. The study, a randomized trail of communication strategies between patient and doctor, is still underway. Its findings revealed that 80% of depressed patients failed to mention their state to their rheumatologists. According to Betsy Sleath, Ph.D., “Chronic diseases can greatly affect a patient’s psychosocial well-being, and depression can also affect a patient’s adherence to treatment regimens.” The following is an excerpt of an article from Medpage Today that reviews the study:

The study was part of a randomized trial of provider-patient communication strategies that is not yet completed. The new report is based on the baseline patient examinations by their rheumatologists, which were recorded and transcribed.

It included 200 patients and eight rheumatologists in four clinics. Most of the analysis focused on 21 patients with severe or moderately severe depression.

This level of depression was defined by scores of at least 15 on the Patient Health Questionnaire.

Patients had previously seen the rheumatologists, but the researchers did not determine for how long.

Dr. Sleath and colleagues found that only four of the encounters (19%) included discussion of patients’ depressive symptoms. All four were initiated by the patients, not the physician.

Their report included quotes from the recorded conversations. In one case, the patient described feelings of depression and day-long crying jags. The physician was supportive and sympathetic, but did not explore the issues. According to Dr. Sleath and colleagues, the only medically substantive discussion was about the patient’s drug regimen for arthritis and follow-up appointment.

Click here to read the entire article from Medpage Today

The key message here is that rheumatologists need to take initiative to discuss depression with their patients. However, the message is much more broadly applicable, in my opinion, to a variety of situations. Families need to be aware through open discourse of what their members are going through, feeling. Additionally, people in charitable roles, such as Pastors, should also be aware of the signs of depression and be willing to have a discourse with congregants about this. Pastors are actually in a unique position to reach out to people in this regard because of the appealing nature, the luring influence, of their message. This truth can clearly be seen in the mission statement of one local church: “love, acceptance, forgiveness…”

Click here to view Renewal Christian Care’s “depression information guide”

Click here to view Renewal Christian Care’s “Pastor’s Mental Health Evaluation Guide” (This guide is not for the diagnosis of depression but merely a guide to help open a forum of discussion between Pastors and congregants about mental health)

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