Depression screenings can help determine when it's more than just the blues

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National Depression Screening Day is October 9. Novant Health psychiatrist explains how it works, who should be screened and how to get help.

If you’re having trouble, ask yourself these three questions: Do I feel helpless? Hopeless? Worthless? If the answer is yes, it’s time to get some help, especially if those feelings are accompanied by any desire to physically harm yourself

October 9 is National Depression Screening Day and according to the National Institute of Mental Health, many U.S. adults might benefit from taking part. An estimated 16 million U.S. adults had at least one major depressive episode in the past year, where their symptoms interfered with their ability to work, sleep, study, eat or enjoy life.

A depression screening is a simple questionnaire that asks how often an individual experiences symptoms like experiencing low self-esteem, poor appetite, lack of concentration and losing interest in things they enjoy. Screenings can be administered by most physicians, at community screening events and are available for free online from organizations like Mental Health America.

Dr. Greg Clary of Novant Health Behavior Health wants people to know that they don’t need an official screening to get help. “If you’re having trouble, ask yourself these three questions: Do I feel helpless? Hopeless? Worthless? If the answer is yes, it’s time to get some help, especially if those feelings are accompanied by any desire to physically harm yourself.”

Everyone goes through periods where they are sad or feeling down, but Dr. Clary explains that a major depressive episode overwhelms the patient's life, affecting them “more days than not in most weeks, or persisting for more than a month.”

Some primary care physicians are incorporating depression screenings into routine appointments, especially for patients with chronic conditions. Depression can often occur in patients with heart disease, stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes and Parkinson’s. Studies published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research in 2002 showed that patients with co-morbid depression tend to have more severe symptoms of both depression and the medical illness, more difficulty adapting to their medical condition and higher medical costs than those who do not have co-existing depression.

“Depression and other illnesses tend to feed on each other. When one gets worse, often times the other does, too, and the outcomes can be very bad,” says Dr. Clary. “But the research shows that it can also work the other way. Treating the depression can alleviate the complications.”

If you or someone close to you is experiencing a major depressive episode, seek help from a trusted resource. “If you think you’re depressed, that’s a good enough indicator to get help. Talk to your doctor, a counselor or a clergy member who can connect you with the resources you need,” says Dr. Clary. If you are thinking about harming yourself, or know someone who is, call 911 or go to a hospital emergency room immediately.

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Kristin Moser
Novant Health
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