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Let’s talk

Date: 8 September 2008

Winning over depression through dialogue. IT helps to talk about it. We have heard this phrase often enough. However, it couldn’t be more apt for people experiencing depression. They need to be in dialogue, not only with their doctors, but also with their loved ones who care for them. Communication is, in itself, an important form of therapy. Recognising the critical need for support and communication for patients suffering from depressive disorders, Wyeth (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, together with the Malaysian Psychiatric Association (MPA), launched Dialogues: Support ‘N’ Remission Impact (SNRI) Programme and the Venlafaxine Patient Information Booklet recently. Present to launch the programme were Prof Dr Mohamad Hussain Habil, former President of MPA and initiator of the Dialogues programme, Dr Yen Teck Hoe, current President of MPA, both of whom are practising psychiatrists, and Rohaya Mamat, Head of Corporate Affairs and Public Relations of Wyeth Malaysia. They explained that the programme is specifically designed to educate and encourage doctors, the patient’s family and friends on the need to offer support and engage in constant dialogue with patients undergoing therapy. “Constant dialogue can contribute significantly towards a patient’s journey to recovery. When patients feel that they have the emotional and moral support of people around them, battling depression and its possible side-effects become all the more tolerable,” said Prof Hussain. Commenting on the illness, Dr Yen explained: “Depression is the most common form of mood disorders. The symptoms of depression may demonstrate itself in negative feelings (hopelessness, uselessness, worthlessness, guilt, suicidal thoughts) as well as via physical conditions (back pain, headaches, giddiness, gastric problems and chronic pain). Diagnosis for depression can only be made if at least five of the symptoms are present for a duration of at least two weeks and are significant enough to cause social and occupational impairment. “One of the main problems with depression is that people do not know the difference between depression and everyday sadness. If the public understands that, they will know that consulting a doctor and taking anti-depressants can and will help. One very important thing the public should know is that self-diagnosis will not help,” he added. The statistics surrounding depression is indeed staggering. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Bank, depression is the fourth most disabling disease in the world. It is said to be an illness more common than even hypertension or diabetes. The WHO estimates that more people die from suicide than from tuberculosis in the Asia Pacific region. The lifetime occurrence of depression in any country is between 8% to 10%. Malaysia, in her stride towards a developed nation, has also not been spared. Higher level of stressors have led to a higher incidence of depression. Records indicate that about 9% of Malaysians suffer from major depression. Similar to global data, depression is also the fourth most disabling disease in Malaysia, ranking third for women and 10th for men. The good news, however, is that appropriate treatment can help over 85% of people who suffer from depression . Patients are commonly treated with antidepressants, therapy and counselling sessions. “While many patients benefit from a combination of treatment, research has also shown that over 40% of patients suffering from depression discontinue antidepressant therapy after three months due to lack of communication, support and a lack of understanding of the side-effects. Many go through a relapse which may occur immediately after treatment or even years after treatment. This is where the Dialogues programme plays an important role,” said Prof Hussain. In this respect, Mamat said Wyeth is pleased to be able to play a proactive role together with MPA to continue to educate the public. As implementers of Dialogues, Wyeth and MPA will work closely with medical facilities nationwide to highlight the Dialogues programme and the availability of educational materials that can equip them to communicate with and support those undergoing depressive disorder. To support the Dialogues: Support ‘N’ Remission Impact Programme, a series of educational posters and brochures has been produced and are now available at medical facilities nationwide. “In addition, the Patient Information Booklet helps patients understand what they will experience while undergoing therapy and this helps to reduce non-compliance and ‘drop-out’. “Available in three languages, the booklet provides a checklist on key issues which patients may explore on their next doctor’s appointment for a smoother flow of communication with their doctor. A mood chart is also included to help patients monitor the progress of their mood and feelings,” said Mamat. For more information about the Dialogues: Support ‘N’ Remission Impact Programme, log on to References: 1. What is Depression? - 2. Malaysian Psychiatric Association Consensus statement 2001 3. Malaysian Burden of Disease and Injury Study. Institute of Public Health, Ministry of Health 2004. 4. Treatment of Depression - This article was first published in

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