UBC research shows that about 50% of British Columbians with depression are not receiving the basic level of care, and authors say the findings highlight the challenges of accessing mental health services across Canada.
It is estimated that 1 in 20 people experience depression each year. Joseph Puyat, a PhD candidate in UBC’s School of Population and Public Health and a research methodologist at the Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcome Sciences, and his colleagues reviewed health data from almost 110 000 British Columbians diagnosed with depression by physicians between 2010 and 2011, and examined whether these individuals received either one of the two recommended treatment options: antidepressants or psychotherapy. They found that only 13% of people received at least four psychotherapy or counseling sessions and 47% received antidepressant medication for at least 12 weeks. Overall, about 53% received the minimum threshold of treatment.
Researchers believe that their findings underestimate the full extent of the problem since many people do not seek or receive a diagnosis for their depression because of issues around stigma or access to a physician. Mr Puyat compared these findings to results from the Statistics Canada 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey and found that the BC data are comparable. In the national survey, 4 out of 10 Canadians who struggle with depression indicate they are not accessing any services to treat depression. He suggests that provinces need to look at the services covered for mental health and how patients access care (e.g., Canadians only receive public health coverage for counseling from medical doctors, yet many family physicians don’t have the time or training to provide counseling services).
The study, “How often do individuals with major depression receive minimally adequate treatment? A population-based, data linkage study,” was published in the July 2016 issue of the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.
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