Peer Support As Effective as Medication in Treating Depression

This entry was posted in Mental Health on March 9, 2011 and modified on April 30, 2019

Peer Support As Effective as Medication in Treating DepressionIf you are one of the 19 million Americans suffering from depression, a new treatment is available that may be just as effective as traditional methods of treatment. After analyzing existing data on depression, a new study reveals that peer support helped reduce symptoms of depression better than psychotherapy and anti-depressants and fared almost as well as cognitive behavioral therapy. This offers hope to those who have been unsuccessful managing depression in the past.

The study examined data from 869 participants who participated in 14 different studies. Each individual received one of four types of treatment: peer support, standard care, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or a combination of standard care and CBT. The goal of the study was to see how individuals receiving peer support progressed as compared to those receiving other forms of treatment.

Researchers found that peer support was extremely successful in helping individuals manage symptoms of depression, most likely because patients feel less isolated. Peer support essentially creates an environment of open communication and sharing where patients can open up and discuss how they feel with trained volunteers who offer emotional support and counseling.

Other advantages to peer support are that it is relatively inexpensive since it utilizes volunteers and individuals other than doctors who don’t charge outrageous fees. It is also has the potential to be widely accessible as treatments can even be offered over the phone or via Internet. And, unlike many anti-depressant medications, there are no harmful side effects.

Combating depression can feel like fighting an uphill battle. Even after trying multiple medications, data shows that 33 percent of those coping with depression still suffer with symptoms. Worse, of those who achieved relief via anti-depressant medications, over 50 percent fell back into depression within twelve months.

Chris Segrin, a behavioral scientist and head of the Computer Science Department at the University of Arizona believes that the social component of depression has often been ignored. He has written a chapter on the subject that was published in the 2011 Handbook of Interpersonal Psychology. Segrin points out that to fully understand depression, it must not be viewed merely from a biological perspective. He goes on to say that there is a strong connection between a person’s social skills and their battle with depression.

Peer support has been widely used to help patients manage other ailments such as drug and alcohol abuse, but its application in treating depression is still relatively unexplored. As those suffering from depression sometimes just need a sounding board, it only makes sense that it would be a good complement to treatment currently offered in the field.

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