This doesn't mean that seeing a mental health care worker isn't necessary as well, however, Green says: "The concern I have with the low number of people seeing mental health professionals is that they're not getting the psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, that we know helps with depression. Personally, I don't believe anyone should be treated with medication alone for depression."
Dr. Sudeepta Varma, a psychiatrist at NYU Langone Medical Center and member of the American Psychiatric Association's Public Affairs Committee for New York County, was also worried that patients might not be getting treated "optimally" with the best dosage of their meds if they never see a psychiatrist.
"People often come in to me having been prescribed antidepressants from their doctor and they're on the lowest dose, wondering why it isn't working for them," she says. "Primary doctors should really work in consultation with a psychiatrist."
Overall, doctors and mental health care professionals weren't alarmed by the rising number of antidepressant prescriptions being written – to the contrary, some questioned whether more patients should be on medication.
The survey captured how many patients are on antidepressants, not necessarily how many patients are being treated for depression with antidepressants. Because antidepressants are also prescribed for anxiety, neurological pain, fibromyalgia, sleep problems, and menopausal hot flashes, some of those reporting being on antidepressants may have been medicated for those reasons, not for depression, says Dr. John Messmer, associate professor of Family and Community Medicine at Penn State College of Medicine.
"I think it's a good thing that one in ten people in the U.S. are on antidepressants," says Dr. Varma at NYU. "It's really hard to convince people to be on medication -- it's not something that people do lightly. I think the fact that more people are on medication means that more people are becoming aware of the signs of depression and that there is less stigma about seeking help," she says.