People with diabetes or heart disease had twice the risk of developing depression than healthy people, according to Warrnambool research professor James Dunbar.
However, a full-scale clinical trial by the Greater Green Triangle Department of Rural Health (GGT UDRH) that used practice nurses at doctors’ clinics as case managers for those suffering the “double whammy” has achieved significant success in combating depression.
Professor Dunbar, the GGT UDRH director, said moves were under way to give practice nurses throughout Australia more training in treating people with depression, similar to what had occurred in the trial.
The nurses worked in consultation with doctors in developing a patient’s treatment and helped them be pro-active in tackling their depression. Treatment sometimes involved doctors prescribing anti-depressants or referrals to specialists. Most of the patients achieved a better state of mind within six to nine months.
Another researcher involved in the project, GGT UDRH deputy director Dr Michael Caoates, said among the trial’s many successes was the case of one patient who had been contemplating going into an aged-care facility.
When that person’s depression had been treated successfully during the trial, the patient decided to remain living independently.
Hamilton-based doctor and principal clinical advisor for Improvement Foundation Australia, Dr Dale Ford, said the research findings were of international significance.
“It shows that with extra training, practice nurses can do great work to improve health outcomes for people with depression,” he said.