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Lorraine Bracco Treats Depression On Sopranos And Off The Air

Acclaimed actor Lorraine Bracco who plays a psychiatrist on the hit HBO series "The Sopranos" has partnered with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to launch an educational campaign called "Why Live with Depression?"™ This campaign is designed to encourage people with depression to seek treatment and provide them with information about depression. 

Thirty-four million Americans suffer from depression at some point during their lives, yet only approximately half of them seek treatment for it. In addition, only about one in five of those receive adequate treatment.

"I wasted a year thinking I could get better on my own and I don't want other people to make the same mistake. You can't make up the lost time that could have been spent with your family, your friends or at work - go and speak with a doctor and share how you have been feeling," said Bracco, who contacted Pfizer to partner on this education initiative. 

Like many people suffering from depression, Bracco says she felt the unnecessary stigma of the condition, which kept her from seeking treatment sooner. Bracco describes her year with depression as a "lost year" during which she felt "joyless, lifeless, disengaged." She finally talked to her doctor, who helped her realize that although depression is a serious medical condition, it is highly treatable. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 80 percent of people with depression who receive treatment show improvement. 

"When I was finally diagnosed with depression and prescribed medication, I was a little afraid. I was afraid that taking an antidepressant would change me and would take away the range of emotions that I needed to act, but that didn't happen...it's not true," said Bracco. "Treatment didn't change me; it made me a better version of myself. Within a short time my symptoms improved, my relationships with my family and loved ones improved, and I was better at being me. I liked myself more and my family was better because of it."

Through the campaign Web site, www.DepressionHelp.com, people can learn more about Lorraine's personal story, begin to find information about depression, and access talking points to help guide discussions with their doctors about the best treatment plan for them. Bracco hopes the "Why Live with Depression?"™ campaign will break down major barriers to treatment by addressing some common misperceptions about antidepressant medications that prevent people from seeking treatment.

"It has been shown that people's misperceptions about antidepressants can stem from the lack of understanding about depression, which contributes to their reluctance to seek medical attention," said Dr. Patrice Harris, a private-practice psychiatrist and Medical Director of Georgia Rehabilitation Outreach.  "There are two common fears that people have about taking antidepressant medication. They're afraid it is habit-forming or it can change their personality, and both of those concerns are unfounded."

Depression is a serious medical condition that can lead to suicidal thoughts and behavior. A combined analysis of 9 antidepressants showed an increased risk from 2% to 4% in people under 18. This risk must be balanced with the medical need. Those starting medication should be watched closely for suicidal thoughts, worsening of depression, or unusual changes in behavior.

For more information about depression, click here.

Created: 4/8/2005  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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