The Treatment of Depression: We’ve Come A Long Way

For too long, depression and other mental illnesses were viewed as shameful and often kept a secret from people outside the immediate family.  When a person’s mental illness became too difficult for the family to handle or effectively contain, the person was sent to an institution, an insane asylum.  A list of reasons for admission from 1864-1889 to a West Virginia mental hospital for the insane went viral a few years ago for its surprising qualifications for committal.  The list included such gems as:

  • Female disease
  • Novel reading
  • Political excitement
  • Laziness
  • Greediness
  • Egotism
  • Disappointment
  • Asthma

While this list was later clarified as a list of contributing factors to the mental illness and not to the confinement itself, the list is a grim reminder of how misunderstood mental illness used to be.  The good news is that we’ve come a long way from believing that reading fiction causes mental illness.

National Spotlight

President Jimmy Carter was the first to implement the President’s Commission on Mental Health and in 1980 passed the Mental Health Systems Act which brought mental health care into the spotlight.  The act was shortlived, however, when President Reagan repealed it in 1981 and moved control of mental health care to each state but the act had a lasting impact and highlighted the need for entitlements such as Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Section 8 housing to include the mentally ill.  It brought mental illness away from institutionalism and into needed social programs to aid the mentally ill.

Major Depressive Disorder Goes Mainstream

Severe depression or Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) has been one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses.  It used to simply thought of as a deep sadness that a person would eventually snap out of.  It wasn’t until the invention of antidepressants that MDD became a more accepted diagnosis.

In the 1950s, researchers were trying to create a treatment for schizophrenia and instead came up with a drug that improved the function of neurotransmitters responsible for mood regulation in the brain.  By 1958, it was being used to treat MDD.  Although it worked well, it came with a lot of side effects and it wasn’t until Prozac was approved in 1987 and Zoloft in 1991 that antidepressants became widely used around the world to treat depression.

It was also during that time that a moratorium on drug advertisements to consumers was lifted and it became legal for drug companies to advertise their products on tv, bringing antidepressants into our living rooms, making their names and the disorders they treat household names.

MDD Today

For people suffering from MDD today, there is increased acceptability and more options.  Schools are becoming more focused on the mental well-being of their students by hiring more psychologists, increasing teacher awareness for warning signs of mental health issues, and implementing programs geared toward improving mental health through understanding-based social interactions, lessons on mindfulness, meditation, and refocusing on movement and exercise for students during the school day.

For adults, groups like NAMI provide support for people and their families who are dealing with MDD and other mental health issues, and the internet is an invaluable resource for connecting with other people who are dealing with MDD.

Technologies to treat MDD have been developing as well.  Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation was approved by the FDA in 2013 as an effective treatment in MDD patients who have been unable to find relief using antidepressants.  Using powerful magnets to stimulate the prefrontal cortex, TMS can relieve symptoms of MDD or send it into remission.  It’s a non-invasive, drug-free treatment that is done an outpatient basis and is covered by most insurance policies.

Gateway TMS is one of the leading providers of TMS treatments in the St. Louis area.  We provide TMS treatments in a calming, relaxed atmosphere and are focused on your health and wellbeing.  Call GatewayTMS today at (314)909-8487 to find out if TMS is right for you.