According to the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (SPKC), every fourteenth Latvian resident aged 15-64 suffers from depression, and 60-80% of suicide victims have been depressed – this disease is one of the most significant risk factors for suicide.
At the same time, the majority of people in Latvia who suffer from depression do not seek help or seek help late due to the stigma of the disease, according to interviews with psychiatrists and depressed patients conducted within the framework of the Latvian Psychiatric Association’s (LPA) campaign “Depression Price”.
Although there is a steady increase in the number of new cases of depression in Latvia, a large part of the society is rooted in myths, stereotypes and generalizations about depression, its recognition, acceptance and treatment.
Patients recognize and accept it as a disease mostly only after a doctor’s visit and a confirmed diagnosis, seeking help only when they are already very ill.
The LPA’s “Depression Cost” campaign calls for better understanding of depression to promote depression treatment, dispel various myths associated with it, reduce suicide statistics directly affected by major depression, and recall that depression is high – it is not just suffering for patients and their relatives, but also damage to the national economy by interfering with one’s job responsibilities.
“Depression is a mental illness that needs to be treated. Unfortunately, many people often seek help for those who are already admitted – moderate to severe depression, when they lose their ability to work, have difficulty doing daily things, suicidal thoughts. Younger people are relatively better informed and more likely to seek help. However, in general, both in the ranks of patients and in the society, we are faced with a rather weak understanding of depression as a disease that can affect anyone and has nothing to do with character weakness, “said LPA President prof. Maris Taube.
The most common myths in society give the impression of depression as a psychological problem or an inability to receive it without associating it with illness and not being aware of the seriousness of the illness – especially because depression often has no obvious cause. Public misunderstanding and condemnation, shame for their apparent weakness, fear of losing their job, getting into a psychiatric registry and losing their “normality” status, the myth that medicines for depression are addictive – the reasons why people do not seek help are different, but basically it is a lack of knowledge and understanding of the disease, doctors psychiatrists point out.
“One of the beliefs expressed by depressed patients is powerlessness and the belief that no one can help them, that there is no solution to this seeming deadlock. But the solution is, depression is treatable! So even more worrying is the fact that only about 10% of the Latvian population affected by depression, “emphasizes Māris Taube.
The LPA study shows that the experience of patients at the beginning of treatment is generally positive, with the availability of specialists, state reimbursements for medicines in the amount of 75% and paid visits being the most significant benefits.
The opportunity to visit outpatient psychiatric day centers, in addition to receiving consultations from other specialists – psychologists, art therapists, etc. – is very much appreciated. At the same time, doctors point to insufficient funding, which prevents depressed patients from receiving 100% state-reimbursed medicines, thus making some of the latest medicines available only to the most solvent part of the society.
As another problem, experts highlight the reluctance of men to seek help in cases of depression. Although in general the prevalence of depression is more common among women, in 2021 in Latvia men committed suicide about five times more often than women. Doctors point out that men tend to deny depression, because from an early age they were brought up according to the prevailing belief in society that a man should be strong. It is therefore important to clarify what masculinity is, breaking stereotypes and recalling that the proof of strength is seeking help, not denying the problem.