No ‘quick fix’ for treating depression, Maltese psychiatrists warn

The Malta Association of Psychiatry called on media outlets to base their news reports only on scientific fact

The MAP said it was concerned at comments about depression and its treatment in the media recently
The MAP said it was concerned at comments about depression and its treatment in the media recently

The Malta Association of Psychiatry (MAP) has expressed its concern at comments in the media regarding depression and its treatment, insisting there was no quick fix solution. 

Earlier this week, local media reports suggested that a three-minute cure for depression existed, citing a method of treatment called Theta Burst Simulation, a form of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation which uses electromagnetic pulses to kick-start areas in the brain. 

“Depression is unfortunately an increasingly-common mental health problem that is soon expected to become the most common cause of one needing time off work in the developed world,” MAP said, adding that it was a “serious and often complex illness”.

For this reason, the MAP said that those dealing with depression need to be understood, supported and treated with respect since they suffer tremendously, and since depression in its most sever forms can be considered a life threatening conditions.

Depression is treatable

Despite the challenges, the MAP said depression was treatable, whatever the degree of severity.

“Thus it is of utmost importance that everyone be able to recognize the symptoms of this mental disorder and to be informed as to what treatment options are effective and backed up with robust clinical research,” the association said.

It said that “the mainstay of treatment for depression” was psychotherapy and medication.

“Contrary to some popular perceptions, such medication when indicated is not addictive and neither is a ‘tranquiliser’. The role of medication is restoring chemical imbalances in the brain.”

The MAP said that Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation was on treatment option for depression which was approved in 2002 and which has proved to be a useful in those resistant to treatment.

“TMS, however, is not recommended as a first line treatment in international guidelines,” the MAP said, noting that factors like its limited availability and response rate, as well as the financial costs did not allow it to be a “mainstay treatment”.

The association said it supported the treatment if administered according to standardised protocols. 

The MAP stressed that depression was a curable condition which, like many other physical health conditions, needed time for treatment to work effectively.

“There is no magical instant cure for depression and therefore people should be wary of interventions that are marketed as relieving symptoms of depression instantly, and always seek out guidance from their family doctor, or from a community mental health clinic which are resourced with caring professionals as well as printed information regarding mental health problems and recommended treatment modalities,” the MAP said.

Concern at those taking advantage of patients

The MAP said it was gravely concerned that “people who have influence in the community” could easily forget their responsibilities and take advantage of patients who are vulnerable due to their desperate desire to feel better.

“The MAP thus strongly advises all professionals to always remain balanced in their statements and to never forget that Medicine is about the individual and not personal gain,” the association said.

“The MAP would also remind all the media outlets of their own responsibilities towards their audiences, including that health care is a serious matter where people who are tired of suffering become less able to distinguish between realistic and fanciful cures, and that significant harm can come to people who treat professionals on the media with excessive trust, and that it is therefore the responsibility of the media to do their best to offer scientifically-valid viewpoints to the public.”

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