Pat McEvily, 52, of New Rochelle, N.Y., ignored his depression for 18 years after being diagnosed by a psychiatrist. His Irish Catholic upbringing left him feeling that medication would be a cop-out.
"I was convinced that my depression was a moral failure, even though I had a priest friend who told me it wasn't," he says. McEvily finally sought treatment, but he says he still fights the feeling of having failed.
The payment problem
The insurance companies make the stigma even worse, says Dr. Greenwald. Mental health services are almost never covered as comprehensively as medical care.
On the other side of the equation, Terrie Williams, 53, of New York City, was amazed at the transformation her diagnosis sparked. "Once I heard the words, 'You're clinically depressed,' I breathed a huge sigh of relief and thought, 'So that's what's wrong with me,'" she says.
Antidepressants won't change your personality
Some people are afraid of the mental health system or of the medications that a doctor may prescribe for depression. "Patients ask me if depression medications will change who they are as people. It's an understandable concern," says Jewel Shim, MD, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California–San Francisco.