“Real Men, Real Depression campaign <http://menanddepression.nimh.nih.gov/infopage.asp?ID=1> ”–in Newsweek: “Men and Depression: New Treatments” (February 26, 2007).
This is an infomercial masquerading as medical news. It is an example of corruption in journalism. Newsweek has surrendered its professional credentials by shamelessly engaging in disease mongering aimed at increasing profits for the mental health industry: “Six million American men will be diagnosed with depression this year. But millions more suffer silently, unaware that their problem has a name or unwilling to seek treatment.”
“The result is a hidden epidemic of despair that is destroying marriages, disrupting careers, filling jail cells, clogging emergency rooms and costing society billions of dollars in lost productivity and medical bills. It is also creating a cohort of children who carry the burden of their fathers' pain for the rest of their lives.”
These same hackneyed claims have become the butt of parody. We recommend the video pitching a new global epidemic–Motivational Deficiency Disorder, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RoppJOtRLe4.
Newsweek readers are referred to a depression screening test which is copyrighted by Pfizer Inc and one of pharmaceutical front groups in the mental health provider industry:
“The screening test on this web site (Patient Health Questionnaire "PHQ-9") is copyrighted ©2005 Pfizer Inc. All rights reserved. The PHQ-9 © may be downloaded and printed by visitors to the National Mental Health Association web site depression-screening.org for their personal use, but may not otherwise be copied, distributed or transmitted without the written consent of the National Mental Health Association or Pfizer Inc.” http://depression-screening.org/screeningtest/screeningtest.htm
Readers of Newsweek would never guess that the mental screening tests are an industry scheme whose purpose is to expand the market: “Signs of Suicide” is a program developed by the non-profit group “Screening for Mental Health, Inc.” Tax records show that donations from 2001-2004 included money from Solvay Pharmaceuticals: $27,500, Pfizer: $750,000, Abbott Laboratories: $35,000, Forest Labs: $153,000, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals: $100,000, and Eli Lilly: $2,157,925.
Why would drug companies donate millions to implement mental health screening if not to expand the market and increase revenue?
Industry’s promotion of mental screening tests is understandable given their implacable record of high false-positives. Take Columbia University’s TeenScreen, when assessed for accuracy by its inventor, Dr. David Shaffer, reported that the test misidentified healthy teens as mentally ill 84% of the time. But Newsweek’s blather misrepresents the flaws of mental screening tests: “Depression-screening tests are so effective at early detection and may prevent so many future problems (and expenses) that the U.S. Army is rolling out a new, enhanced screening program for soldiers returning from Iraq. College health-center Web sites nationwide provide the service to their students, and even the San Francisco Giants organization offers these tests to its employees.”
The most disturbing information in the Newsweek piece is that NIMH is experimenting with a chemical product known to induce hallucinations: “Researchers at the NIMH are also experimenting with the idea of fast-acting antidepressants that would relieve symptoms in a few hours instead of the eight weeks or more needed for most antidepressants to take effect. In clinical trials, scientists found that a single, IV-administered dose of ketamine, an animal tranquilizer, reduced the symptoms of depression in just two to three hours and had long-lasting effects. Because of its hallucinogenic side effects, ketamine can never be used out of controlled environments. But the success of the trial is giving scientists new ideas about drugs and methods of administering them.”
Newsweek readers are referred to other resources which are also awash in Pharma $$: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention <http://www.afsp.org/> ; National Organization for People of Color Against Suicide <http://www.nopcas.com/> ; Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance <http://www.dbsalliance.org/> . Big Pharma is clearly emulating Big Tobacco in its last ditch marketing efforts. The “Real Men, Real Depression” marketing campaign appears to be a last ditch effort to gain new customers—and cash–for antidepression treatments.
Another Tobacco look-alike drug marketing campaign are the drug advertisements for sleeping pills and erectile dysfunction, geared to teenagers: “Society recognizes that teens don't have the judgment required to evaluate messages related to alcohol, tobacco, etc. So why are some pharmaceutical companies getting away with beaming Insomnia and ED Rx drugs ads to teens on the Web?” See: Pharma Marketing Blog: http://pharmamkting.blogspot.com/2007/02/marketing-drugs-to-teens-online-so.html
Contact: Vera Hassner Sharav
Men and Depression: New Treatments
By Julie Scelfo
Feb. 26, 2007 issue – For nearly a decade, while serving as an elected official and working as an attorney, Massachusetts state Sen. Bob Antonioni struggled with depression, although he didn't know it. Most days, he attended Senate meetings and appeared on behalf of clients at the courthouse. But privately, he was irritable and short-tempered, ruminating endlessly over his cases and becoming easily frustrated by small things, like deciding which TV show to watch with his girlfriend. After a morning at the state house, he'd be so exhausted by noon that he'd drive home and collapse on the couch, unable to move for the rest of the day.
When his younger brother, who was similarly moody, killed himself in 1999, Antonioni, then 40, decided to seek help. For three years, he clandestinely saw a therapist, paying in cash so there would be no record. He took antidepressants, but had his prescriptions filled at a pharmacy 20 miles away. His depression was his burden, and his secret. He couldn't bear for his image to be any less than what he thought it should be. "I didn't want to sound like I couldn't take care of myself, that I wasn't a man," says Antonioni.
Then, in 2002, his chief of staff discovered him on the floor of his state-house office, unable to stop crying. Antonioni, now 48, decided he had to open up to his friends and family. A few months later, invited to speak at a mental-health vigil, he found the courage to talk publicly about his problem. Soon after, a local reporter wrote about Antonioni's ongoing struggle with the disease. Instead of being greeted with jeers, he was hailed as a hero, and inundated with cards and letters from his constituents. "The response was universally positive. I was astounded."
Six million American men will be diagnosed with depression this year. But millions more suffer silently, unaware that their problem has a name or unwilling to seek treatment. In a confessional culture in which Americans are increasingly obsessed with their health, it may seem clichéd—men are from Mars, women from Venus, and all that—to say that men tend not to take care of themselves and are reluctant to own up to mental illness. But the facts suggest that, well, men tend not to take care of themselves and are reluctant to own up to mental illness. Although depression is emotionally crippling and has numerous medical implications—some of them deadly—many men fail to recognize the symptoms. Instead of talking about their feelings, men may mask them with alcohol, drug abuse, gambling, anger or by becoming workaholics. And even when they do realize they have a problem, men often view asking for help as an admission of weakness, a betrayal of their male identities.
The result is a hidden epidemic of despair that is destroying marriages, disrupting careers, filling jail cells, clogging emergency rooms and costing society billions of dollars in lost productivity and medical bills. It is also creating a cohort of children who carry the burden of their fathers' pain for the rest of their lives. The Gary Cooper model of manhood—what Tony Soprano called "the strong, silent type" to his psychiatrist, Dr. Melfi—is so deeply embedded in our social psyche that some men would rather kill themselves than confront the fact that they feel despondent, inadequate or helpless. "Our definition of a successful man in this culture does not include being depressed, down or sad," says Michael Addis, chair of psychology at Clark University in Massachusetts. "In many ways it's the exact opposite. A successful man is always up, positive, in charge and in control of his emotions."
…………..For decades, psychologists believed that men experienced depression at only a fraction of the rate of women. But this overly rosy view, doctors now recognize, was due to the fact that men were better at hiding their feelings. Depressed women often weep and talk about feeling bad; depressed men are more likely to get into bar fights, scream at their wives, have affairs or become enraged by small inconveniences like lousy service at a restaurant. "Men's irritability is usually seen as a character flaw," says Harvard Medical School's William Pollack, "not as a sign of depression." In many cases, however, that's exactly what it is: depression.
If modern psychologists were slow to understand how men's emotions affect their behaviors, it's only because their predecessors long ago decided that having a uterus was the main risk factor for mental illness. During the last two centuries, depression was largely viewed as a female problem, an outgrowth of hormonal fluctuations stemming from puberty, childbirth and menopause. Even the most skilled psychologists and psychiatrists missed their male patients' mood disorders, believing that depressed men, like depressed women, would talk openly about feeling blue. "I misdiagnosed male depression for years and years," says psychologist Archibald Hart, author of "Unmasking Male Depression."
……………The widespread failure to recognize depression in men has enormous medical and financial consequences. Depression has been linked to heart disease, heart attacks and strokes, problems that affect men at a higher rate and an earlier age than women. Men with depression and heart disease are two or three times more likely to die than men with heart disease who are not depressed. Lost productivity due to adult depression is estimated at $83 billion a year. Over the past 50 years, American men of all ages have killed themselves at four or more times the rate of women, depending on the specific age range.
……………the hurried primary-care physician often finds it difficult if not impossible to assess a patient's emotional state. To help clear that hurdle, researchers developed a simple screening test for doctors to use: Over the last two weeks, have you been bothered by either of the following problems: (a) little interest or pleasure in doing things? or (b) feeling down, depressed or hopeless? If a patient responds "yes," seven more questions can be administered, which result in a 0 to 27 rating. Score in hand, many physicians feel more comfortable broaching the subject of depression, and men seem more willing to discuss it. "It's a way of making it more concrete," says Indiana University's Dr. Kurt Kroenke, who helped design the questionnaires. "Patients can see how severe their scores are, just like if you showed them blood-sugar or cholesterol levels."
Depression-screening tests are so effective at early detection and may prevent so many future problems (and expenses) that the U.S. Army is rolling out a new, enhanced screening program for soldiers returning from Iraq. College health-center Web sites nationwide provide the service to their students, and even the San Francisco Giants organization offers these tests to its employees.
………….For decades, scientists believed the main cause of depression was low levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine. Newer research, however, focuses on the nerve cells themselves and how the brain's circuitry can be permanently damaged by hyperactive stress responses, brought on by genetic predisposition, prolonged exposure to stress or even a single traumatic event. "When the stress responses are stuck in the 'on' position, that has a negative effect on mood regulation overall," says Dr. Michael C. Miller, editor of the Harvard Mental Health Letter. A depressed brain is not necessarily underproducing something, says Dr. Thomas Insel, head of the National Institute of Mental Health—it's doing too much.
………Canadian scientists have had success with deep brain stimulation—a procedure in which two thin electrodes are implanted in the brain to send a continuous electrical current to Area 25, a tiny, almond-shaped node thought to play a role in controlling emotions. In recent trials involving patients who got no relief from other forms of treatment, all the subjects reported mood improvements within six months and, remarkably, most said they were completely cured of depression.
Researchers at the NIMH are also experimenting with the idea of fast-acting antidepressants that would relieve symptoms in a few hours instead of the eight weeks or more needed for most antidepressants to take effect. In clinical trials, scientists found that a single, IV-administered dose of ketamine, an animal tranquilizer, reduced the symptoms of depression in just two to three hours and had long-lasting effects. Because of its hallucinogenic side effects, ketamine can never be used out of controlled environments. But the success of the trial is giving scientists new ideas about drugs and methods of administering them. xxxxxCut xxx
(With Karen Springen in Chicago and Mary Carmichael in Boston)
Click here <http://depression-screening.org/screeningtest/screen.cfm> to take the confidential depression-screening test.
Copyright © 2005 National Mental Health Association and Pfizer Inc. All rights reserved.
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