“Elena’s Journey Helps Family Understand Depression”

Vicente Gasul, primary care physician in Department 9 of Valencia and coordinator of the Semergen Mental Health Group.

With the goal of making depression visible, Lundbeck leads the 44th National Congress of the Spanish Society of Primary Care Physicians (Semergen) Elena’s Journey“. A virtual experience created in 2021 by more than 500 recommendations of people who have gone through this disease and who show their stories, emotions and thoughts in the first person. These shared experiences were the source of inspiration for illustrator Ana Santos to create the 12 illustrations that make up this exhibition.

To learn firsthand about the connection between Elementary School and depression, Medical writing interview to Vincent Gassoul, coordinator of the Semergen Mental Health Group, who explains that 50 percent of patients with depression are diagnosed by primary care physicians. A figure that many health professionals in the field believe could increase if there was dedicated mental health training and a longer average time for each consultation, which is currently just 7 minutes. “This makes it difficult to establish a good doctor-patient relationship, which is key to early diagnosis and treatment adherence in people suffering from a depressive disorder,” explains Gasul.

Why did you bring Elena’s Journey to the 44th National Congress of the Spanish Society of Primary Care Physicians (Semergen)?

Because primary care physicians are the gateway to the health care system, and patients generally cannot see a psychiatrist without first going through their family physician. In addition, in many cases the patient does not directly indicate the symptoms of depression and it is very important for the primary care doctor to know how the depressive disorder can manifest and to find those clues that can lead the doctor to generate an early diagnosis. It very often happens that the patient considers it a sign of weakness and does not even tell the family.

Vicente Gasul, primary care physician in Department 9 of Valencia and coordinator of the Semergen Mental Health Group.

Can “Elena’s Journey” help by raising awareness among family doctors about the importance of depression and the increase it is seeing in young people?

Yes, because in the end, Elena’s journey is a summary of the opinion of 500 patients who wrote what they felt when they had depression and in its various stages. It is important because if we think that depression is a chronic disease, it is not only at the beginning, but throughout its evolution. There we need to know how the patient is progressing, what he is thinking, how he may be at risk of coming off the medication, what adverse effects he may have… All of this is captured in a graphical form. So it helps to understand the disorder and the primary care physician should know this.

Can you help him predict the problems?

Effectively or at least implement a follow-up plan in accordance with these possible changes.

What would you tell a family doctor to stop looking at Elena’s Journey?

That there you will find a very easy, understandable and very quick explanation of what the patient feels and why we need to get involved and have a proactive attitude to the treatment of these patients in an increasingly common problem in our society.

Vincent Gassoul.

What is the role of the family doctor in detecting depression?

The family doctor plays a crucial role. In depression, early detection is key, it has been shown that the longer it takes to be diagnosed, the less likely it is to achieve remission. We know that many depressions manifest with somatic symptoms that have nothing to do with mood or affect, but with difficulty concentrating or falling asleep. In view of all this, the family doctor should have a proactive attitude and through their symptoms arrive at a diagnosis as early as possible so that the results are better.

Moreover, depression is a disease that requires chronic treatment. For example, a first episode requires between 9 and 11 months of treatment. It is very easy for a patient to start feeling better and start receiving messages contradicting the treatment and decide to leave it. The physician should consider regular follow-up to evaluate adverse effects that may occur if he responds to treatment and to assess adherence.

So, is the family doctor the one from start to finish?

Undoubtedly. Even when the end is reached, many patients feel that they are not the same as they were before. Residual symptoms remain, and if this patient stops the drug, the chances of relapse are greater. The doctor must be vigilant so that the treatment is not abandoned and if these symptoms remain, change it so that complete remission is achieved.

Ivan Fernandez, editor of Specialties, and Vicente Gasul, during the interview with Medical Writing.

Although it may contain statements, data or notes from health institutions or professionals, the information contained in Medical Writing is edited and prepared by journalists. We recommend that the reader consult a health professional for all health-related questions.

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