People in our country are under stress. As we recently experienced our country’s worst natural disasters, most of us saw on TV and read newspaper articles about things that are devastating and tragic. Some of us were impacted directly by hurricanes this season or in seasons past. In addition, times are tough in our country economically and politically, the labor movement is going through change and, then, there are personal issues people deal with on a regular basis such as relationship, family and job stress; finances; health and wellness issues and problems with drugs and alcohol. It is easy to see why levels of stress are going up along with levels of depression and other mental health conditions.

Fortunately, programs exist to help people recognize how these or other life events may be affecting their mental health and emotional well being. One of these programs is National Depression Screening Day® (NDSD). National Depression Screening Day is held each October during Mental Illness Awareness Week. This year it will be held on Thursday, October 6th. This is a nationwide program designed to provide information about the signs, symptoms and treatment of depression, bipolar disorder and other mental health disorders.

NDSD gives individuals the opportunity to find out if they may be suffering from depression by taking a simple, confidential screening test. The screening is not intended to provide a diagnosis, but rather to identify symptoms and help an individual assess if they should seek a more thorough evaluation from a mental health professional. Clinical depression is a common condition affecting more than 19 million American adults each year.

Whether for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or depression, health screenings provide a quick and easy way to spot the first signs of serious illness and can reach people who might not otherwise seek professional medical advice. Like screenings for other illnesses, depression screenings should be a routine part of healthcare.

Why Screen for Depression?

  • Clinical depression is a serious medical illness.
  • Clinical depression can lead to suicide.
  • Sometimes people with depression mistakenly believe that the symptoms of depression are a “normal part of life.”
  • Clinical depression affects men and women of all ages, races and socioeconomic groups.
  • One in four women and one in ten men will experience depression at some point during their lifetime.
  • Two thirds of those suffering from the illness do not seek necessary treatment.
  • Depression can co-occur and complicate other medical conditions.
  • More than 80 percent of all cases of clinical depression can be effectively treated with medication, psychotherapy or a combination of both.
  • Screenings are often the first step in getting help.

What is a Depression Screening Like?

Attendees at screening programs, which are free and confidential:

  • Hear an educational session on depression
  • Complete a written screening test
  • Discuss the results with a mental health professional
  • If necessary, learn where to go for additional help

Who Should Attend a Depression Screening?

People suffering from depression often experience some of these key symptoms:

  • A persistent, sad, anxious or “empty” mood
  • Sleeping too little, early morning awakening or sleeping too much
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss, or increased appetite and weight gain
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Where to Go for Help:

To find a free, anonymous screening site in your area go to Mental Health Screening.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

If you are currently in crisis and need to speak with someone immediately, please call
1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

  • The hotline is staffed by trained counselors.
  • Counselors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • They have information about support services that can help.

[Steve Clark]