Depression: Now you’re talking

| December 04, 2001

The most effective treatment for depression is a combination of therapy and medication, says Jack Herrmann, a director of Strong Behavior Health in Rochester, N.Y. More than 80 percent of people who seek treatment find significant improvement, and nearly all receive some benefit, says the American Psychiatric Association.

Treatment may come from psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, family therapists or counselors. Licensing and certification vary by state. Only a psychiatrist or other medical doctor can prescribe medicine. Ministers and chaplains usually have experience and training in helping depression.

Health insurance often covers mental health treatment. If not, check for local mental health facilities that have a sliding fee scale.

Often, people don’t recognize their own depression, says Dale Masi, a University of Maryland professor and an expert in employee assistance programs. She ranks depression “easily first or second” among the problems of employee clients.

“What people go for is often not what they have,” Masi says. “They say ‘I feel sad’ or ‘I can’t sleep.’ Only in recent years has there been much education on depression. Until recently, counselors didn’t even assess it appropriately.”

Therapy no longer entails lying on a couch once a week for years, as in old Woody Allen movies and The Bob Newhart Show. Josh Klapow, a clinical psychologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, says the norm is weekly, half-hour sessions for 10 to 16 weeks. “I’ve dismissed people after as few as three or four sessions,” Klapow says.

Some fleets offer employee assistance programs in which professional counselors are contracted to provide confidential sessions for the employee and family members. Because these are for employees, such programs are usually not available to owner-operators.

Some carriers provide on-staff counselors. Melody Bronson, director of driver relations for Stevens Transport in Dallas, is one of the company’s five counselors. She isn’t licensed, so she will encourage seriously depressed truckers to see professionals or their ministers.

“We’re a neutral ground to resolve problems,” Bronson says. Many truckers break into tears while talking to her, she says.

The Stevens counselors do considerable outreach, talking to truckers in the yard and contacting those who have had a death in the family. If a driver is involved in a fatal accident, Stevens pays for professional counseling.

Business/Industrial Chaplainry offers Christian-based counseling to Sitton Motor Lines and other companies around Joplin, Mo. “They may not want to talk about it, but it’s important to have ventilation of feelings,” says chaplain Keith Jackson. “Find the root cause of depression or at least the symptoms. Then have an alternative plan of action.”

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