National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Depression: Gaps & Guideposts
Highlights & Comments
While many Americans do not believe they know much about depression, they are highly aware of the risks of not receiving care, according to a survey conducted on behalf of NAMI by Harris Interactive Inc. released in November 2009.
The survey provides a "three dimensional" measurement of responses from members of the general public who have never known anyone living with depression, caregivers and individuals who actually live with the illness.
Major depression is a serious medical illness involving the brain. It affects 15 million American adults, or approximately 5-8 percent of the adult population in any given year. Unlike normal emotional experiences of sadness, loss or passing mood states, major depression is persistent. It interferes with an individual's thoughts, behavior, mood, activity and physical health.
There is no single cause for the illness. Psychological, biological and environmental factors may all contribute to its development. Life events, such as the death of a loved one, a major loss or change, chronic stress and alcohol and drug abuse, may trigger episodes of depression. Some illnesses, such as heart disease and cancer, and some medications also trigger episodes. However, it is important to note that many depressive episodes can and do occur spontaneously and are not triggered by a life crisis, physical illness or other risks.