“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”
So said Robin Williams. It’s one of the many sayings for which this beloved American actor is remembered, and the quote above has taken on particular significance in light of Williams’s tragic suicide earlier this month.
Those who knew Williams confirmed that the actor had been battling depression for some time, and in light of his death a very public conversation about mental health care has emerged. Many people are wondering: What is depression? How do we stop it? What health care options are available for a person who thinks they might be depressed?
What Is Depression?
Depression is a single mental illness with many forms. A patient with mild depression might experience occasional bouts of sadness that require no treatment at all, whereas a patient with severe depression may feel sad, tired or worthless all the time, and be unable to function day-to-day. In extreme cases, depression can lead to suicide.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. WHO lists depression at the number one cause of disability around the globe, meaning that depression is a bigger disease burden to people and productivity than cancer, diabetes or heart disease.
Like many mental illnesses, depression can appear with other disorders of the mood and the mind. A manic-depressive patient will experience periods of both mania and depression, and anxiety disorders are often seen in patients also diagnosed with depression.
How Is It Treated?
The American Psychological Association calls depression a “highly treatable” disorder – when the patient has access to competent care. Depressed patients may firstly benefit from psychological care, which can include talking regularly with a therapist or engaging in cognitive behavioral therapy: a process in which the patient learns to recognize depression triggers and to stop harmful patterns of thinking.
Medication is another option for patients with depression. A range of pharmaceutical treatments are available, and with a qualified psychiatrist many people find the right drug and the right dosage to make their disease more manageable.
Does Insurance Cover Depression?
Citizens of nations with national health care may already be aware that, often, mental health services aren’t covered. In the United Kingdom, a patient must first speak with their General Practitioner about depression; if the GP then recommends a visit to a psychologist, that care should be provided free by the National Health Service. However, not all psychological care is covered, and indeed many Britons have complained that the government ought to do more to provide better resources for mental health care.
In the United States, a large range of mental health services are covered by all insurance plans for sale under Obamacare. Disease screening, therapy, medication and rehabilitation are all listed as essential health benefits in the Affordable Care Act, and therefore must be offered in even the most basic coverage plans. At the same time, treatment may be limited on the cheapest plans: only allowing for 20 counseling sessions per year, for example.
When government-sponsored health care doesn’t cover mental health services, patients may turn to private insurance. A core Worldwide Medical Insurance plan with Bupa will cover emergency psychiatric hospitalization and treatment, and with a Worldwide Medical Plus option, a policy-holder can receive further access to diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders including depression.
Other private insurance policies may offer similar coverage, but new insurance customers concerned about depression or another mental illness should be sure to ask: how many visits to a therapist are covered per year? Is medication as well as talk therapy available on the policy? And if emergency care becomes necessary, will hospitalization or a stay in a rehabilitation clinic be paid for in full?
Depression is a serious health affliction, but with proper diagnosis and treatment it can be overcome. Care is key: those of us living with depression should be encouraged to seek help, and advocates in both health care and politics should continue to promote the work of mental health professionals and caregivers at every opportunity.
If you or one of your loved ones are suffering from depression and are concerned as to whether your insurer will cover your care, contact us to find out more information. Our team of expert advisors are always happy to help.