Managing depression and anxiety in people with epilepsy: a survey of epilepsy health professionals by The ILAE Psychology Task Force

Milena Gandy*, Avani C. Modi, Janelle L. Wagner, W. Curt LaFrance Jr, Markus Reuber, Venus Tang, Kette D. Valente, Laura H. Goldstein, Kirsten A. Donald, Genevieve Rayner , Rosa Michaelis

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    31 Citations (Scopus)
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    ObjectivesThe Psychology Task Force of the Medical Therapies Commission of the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) has been charged with taking steps to improve global mental health care for people with epilepsy. This study aimed to inform the direction and priorities of the Task Force by examining epilepsy health care providers’ current practical experiences, barriers and unmet needs around addressing depression and anxiety in their patients.MethodsA voluntary 27‐item online survey was distributed via ILAE chapters and networks. It assessed practices in the areas of screening, referral, management and psychological care for depression and anxiety. A total of 445 participants, from 67 countries (68% high income), commenced the survey, with 87% completing all components. Most respondents (80%) were either neurologists or epileptologists.ResultsLess than half of respondents felt adequately resourced to manage depression and anxiety. There was a lack of consensus about which health professionals were responsible for screening and management of these comorbidities. About a third only assessed for depression and anxiety following spontaneous report and lack of time was a common barrier (>50%). Routine referrals to psychiatrists (>55%) and psychologists (>41%) were common, but approximately one third relied on watchful waiting. A lack of both trained mental health specialists (>55%) and standardised procedures (>38%) were common barriers to referral practices. The majority (>75%) of respondents’ patients identified with depression or anxiety had previously accessed psychotropic medications or psychological treatments. However, multiple barriers to psychological treatments were endorsed, including accessibility difficulties (52%).SignificanceThe findings suggest that while the importance of managing depression and anxiety in patients with epilepsy is being recognised, there are ongoing barriers to effective mental health care. Key future directions include the need for updated protocols in this area and the integration of mental health professionals within epilepsy settings.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)127-139
    Number of pages13
    JournalEpilepsia Open
    Issue number1
    Early online date3 Dec 2020
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2020. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


    • mental health
    • psychiatric comorbidity
    • psychotherapy
    • screening
    • suicide
    • treatment


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