New online resource helps people diagnosed with depression

People diagnosed with depression can now find out more about the condition by listening to the experiences of others, thanks to a new online resource launched on Friday 8 October by the Database of Individual Patient Experiences (DIPEx).

The online module is based on detailed qualitative academic research carried out at the DIPEx Research Group based in the Department of Primary Health Care. The module features 38 interviews with individuals on their experiences of depression. The interviews – which are available as a written transcript and can often be played as audio or video clips – cover such topics as childhood experiences; how the patient discovered they had depression; how the condition affects their life and the lives of those around them; and their experiences of the various treatments for depression that are available.

Depression is a mental health condition that affects an estimated two million people in the UK. At any one time depression affects between five and ten per cent of the population, and each person has a twenty per cent chance of experiencing depression at least once in their lifetime. People suffering from depression can often feel an overwhelming sense of isolation. The interviews on this site show that they are not alone: other people are going through the same thing, and with help it is possible to recover.

In addition to the personal accounts of depression, the website answers the questions that patients frequently ask, which are often very different from the questions health professionals think patients want to ask. The site also provides background information on the condition and its causes and symptoms; explains the pros and cons of the various types of medication and treatments available; and provides links to support groups and other organisations that can help.

The new module was officially launched at Church House, Westminster on Friday by the patron of DIPEx, broadcaster Jon Snow. Speaking about the new module he said: ‘Of the 13 DIPEx sites available so far, I consider this one has the greatest potential to challenge our preconceptions about mental illness and to bring about improvements in the lives of many who are coping alone and unattended’

DIPEx is an Oxford based charity set up by Dr Ann McPherson CBE, University Lecturer in General Practice, and Dr Andrew Herxheimer after their own personal experiences of illness. The DIPEx website was launched in July 2001 to provide access to personal accounts of health and illness. The site – which receives approximately 300,000 hits a month – currently has 14 modules, including ones on heart attack and living with dying that have been launched in the past few months. There are currently 13 more modules in progress, featuring the experiences of those with chronic pain syndrome, carers of people with dementia and those diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

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