Purpose: Depression is common in people with vision impairment and further reduces levels of functioning independent of vision loss. However, depression most often remains undetected and untreated this group. Eye health professionals (EHPs) (ophthalmic nurses, ophthalmologists, optometrists, and orthoptists) and rehabilitation workers (RWs) may be able to play a role in detecting depression. This study aimed to identify current practice and investigate factors associated with depression management strategies.
Methods: A self-administered cross-sectional survey of EHPs and RWs assessed current practice including confidence in working with depressed people with vision impairment; barriers to recognition, assessment, and management of depression; beliefs about the consequences, duration, and efficacy of treatment for depression in individuals with vision impairment.
Results: Ninety-four participants aged 23 to 69 years took part. Thirty-seven participants (39.8%) stated that they attempted to identify depression as part of patient management, with RWs significantly more likely to do so (n = 17, 60.7%) than EHPs (n = 20, 30.8%; p = 0.007). Intention to identify depression was not associated with sociodemographic factors, professional experience in eye care services, or the length and number of patient consultations, but a significant relationship was found for confidence, barriers, and beliefs about depression (p < 0.05). No consistent depression management strategy emerged and a range of barriers were highlighted.
Conclusions: Training programs are needed to provide EHPs and RWs with the skills and resources to address depression in people with vision loss under their care and to support the development of procedures by which concerns about depression can be identified objectively, documented, and included as part of a referral to appropriate services.