On Tuesday, the NYC Health Department launched a new campaign to encourage and prepare primary care providers to include screening and treatment of depression in their primary care services.
The new campaign is part of the city's efforts and to reduce the stigma surrounding depression, to prioritize services around mental health and to close treatment gaps in underserved communities in Central and East Brooklyn, among others.
"Primary care providers are in a unique position to screen for depression," said First Lady Chirlane McCray who launched the city's mental health initiative ThriveNYC in 2015. "Depression, like other illnesses, benefits from early detection, and patients will have healthier outcomes if the link between physical and mental health is addressed."
According to the health department, one in 12 adult New Yorkers has depression — more than half a million adults — and nearly 60 percent of them have not received treatment in the past 12 months. Nearly one in three adults with a chronic illness, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, also has depression, which can contribute to and worsen the course of chronic disease.
"Mental health is equally as important as physical health and needs to be prioritized alike," said State Senator Roxanne J. Persaud who represents the 19th District, including East New York and Brownsville. "According to the National Network of Depression Centers, depression is the leading cause of disability among young adults in this country."
As part of the campaign, the health department will be conducting one-on-one visits with more than 160 primary care practices in Central and East Brooklyn, East Harlem and the South Bronx -- communities, which have been often looked over in the conversation on mental health.
Providers will learn how to identify risk factors for depression, such as pregnancy or a recent birth, losing a job, or a family history of depression; talk to their patients about treatment options for depression, and help their patients come up with an action plan for lifestyle changes and self-care.
"Physical and mental health aren't separate in our patients, so why treat them separately?" said Deputy Commissioner Dr. Sonia Angell. "Adults with chronic diseases like hypertension and diabetes are two to three times more likely to report being depressed than others. This detailing campaign gives primary care providers effective strategies to care for their patients, body and mind."
Dr. Lindsay Israel, psychiatrist and Chief Medical Officer at Success TMS - Depression Treatment Centers says it is imperative we begin to view mental health as important as maintaining physical health:
"The majority of antidepressant prescriptions already come our of primary care offices, but often it is the patient eventually reporting to their doctor the depression symptoms they have been experiencing," said Dr. Israel. "If primary care physicians incorporate depression screening into their standard physical assessments, as they do screening for hypertension and elevated cholesterol, they would very likely be able to intervene on patients suffering with depression sooner than later."
New Yorkers with depression can contact NYC Well for free and confidential support at 24/7 by calling 1-888-NYC-WELL, texting "WELL" to 65173 or going to nyc.gov/nycwell.
A complete 2018 report on depression among adults is available online.