National Depression Screening Day is held annually on the Thursday of the first full week in October, is an education and screening event conducted by hospitals, clinics, colleges, and community groups nationwide.
Much like the medical community screens for diabetes and high blood pressure, advocates would like to see large-scale mood disorder screenings for the public.
Depression affects more than 15 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the US population age 18 and older in a given year. It is the leading cause of disability in the US for ages 15 to 44. Major depression can lead to suicide.
Key symptoms of depression are a persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood, sleeping too little or too much, sudden weight loss or gain, loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed, loss of energy, and thoughts of death or suicide.
Only about half of Americans diagnosed with major depression in a given year receive treatment for it and many more present with symptoms of depression without an official medical diagnosis. More effective screening could change that picture. Up to 80 percent of those who do receive treatment for depression show an improvement in symptoms, usually within four to six weeks.
Better Integration with Primary Care
A new study has identified at-risk populations for whom depression screening combined with hazardous alcohol use screening could detect depressive symptoms that might otherwise go untreated. Primary care settings are an “untapped resource” to treat depression, according to first author Matthew Hirschtritt, a forensic psychiatry fellow at University of California San Francisco.
“Our study provides evidence that, with a simple questionnaire, primary care doctors have a big opportunity to better spot depressive symptoms in at-risk patients and help improve their lives through treatment,” said Dr. Hirschtritt.
If you suspect that you or a loved one could be suffering from depression, you don’t have to wait for your doctor to take the initiative. Several organizations such as Mental Health America and Screening for Mental Health offer screening tools for depression. Screening is not a diagnosis, but it can be a helpful tool for starting a conversation with your doctor or a loved one about your mental health.
Depression is a common and treatable mood disorder, and raising awareness about different ways to help people affected by it could save lives. Please join The Pavilion at Williamsburg Place this National Depression Screening Day and help us spread the word to increase awareness of mental health issues.