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The Voice of the Black Community


Depression can lead to other diseases
Stress found to be key factor in physical and mental health
Published Monday, August 25, 2014 8:00 am
by Stacy M. Brown, The Washington Informer


Regardless of race, age or gender, we'd all do well to avoid stress. It has been found to be one of the largest causes of disease and disability. Yet, many never seek treatment.

Major depression is one of the single largest causes of disability in the world. Yet, it routinely goes unrecognized, undiagnosed and untreated.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh said they can now explain how stress impacts health and promotes disease. A recent study found that chronic psychological stress is associated with the body losing its ability to regulate its inflammatory response.

“Prolonged stress alters the effectiveness of cortisol,” said Sheldon Cohen, a professor of Psychology at Carnegie Mellon’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “Inflammation is partly regulated by the cortisol and when cortisol isn’t allowed to serve this function, inflammation can get out of control.”

Health officials say those in African-American and other minority communities are more likely to experience stress and less likely to access care for mental health issues.

Sophie Clark, the executive director of the National Alliance of Mental Illness in Southeast said many do not seek help because of the stigma that surrounds depression.

“Mental health issues are more [common] than most people realize,” Clark said. “The stigma surrounding mental health issues affect everyone, but it has a greater impact in communities of color.”

Officials said African-Americans shouldn’t wait for assistance and they must also take the initiative in letting their physicians and loved ones know if they’re experiencing mental health problems.

Dr. Kisha Davis, director of community outreach for the Casey Health Institute, an integrative medicine center in Gaithersburg, Maryland, said blacks tend to rely on family, religious and social communities for emotional support rather than turning to health care professionals.

“The care providers they seek may not be aware of an important aspect of the person’s life,” Davis said.

In a study produced in July by the medical journal, General Hospital Psychiatry, researchers found that blacks with depression and another chronic medical condition, often don’t receive the proper mental health treatment.

Those who do seek treatment for depression are likely to receive medications from a primary care provider and are less likely to get care from specialized mental health providers, said the study authors at Carnegie Mellon.

Consequently, those patients rarely receive the standard mental health care that’s recommended in the guidelines provided by the American Psychiatric Association.

“People who have depression are more likely to develop other diseases and vice versa,” said Amma A. Agvemang, one of the study’s authors.

“We found depression treatment below par for minorities, even those with co-morbid diabetes or hypertension,” she said. “Having a mental illness makes both more complex to treat, and the rate of obtaining depression treatment remains low for this population.”

Health care experts also remain adamant that many of the problems associated with mental illness can be traced to stress.

Regardless of race or background, all would do well to avoid stress.

“The immune system’s ability to regulate inflammation predicts who will develop a cold, but more importantly it provides an explanation of how stress can promote disease,” Cohen said. “When under stress, cells of the immune system are unable to respond to hormonal control, and consequently, produce levels of inflammation that promote disease. Knowing this is important for identifying which diseases may be influenced by stress and for preventing disease in chronologically stressed people.”


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