All You Need to Know for Depression Screening Day on October 6th
Depression is reaching epidemic levels, but there is help and hope.
You may get screenings for cancer, high blood pressure, and other diseases, but what about your mental health? Your mental health is as important as your physical health when it comes to leading a long and happy life, but all too often mental illnesses are not treated with the urgency or importance they deserve. October 6, 2022 is National Depression Screening Day, a day where you can focus on giving your mental health the attention it deserves.
Depression is the most common mental illness. Studies show that at least 40 million Americans struggle with depression or anxiety disorders. Depression is also one of the leading causes of suicide, which is now the 12th leading cause of death in America.
But in spite of the surge in depression diagnoses, our healthcare system is better-equipped than ever to deal with issues of depression and anxiety. The first step in getting help for your anxiety or depression might be a simple depression screening, which is what October 6th is all about.
What is a depression screening?
A depression screening can be performed in your doctor’s office, or online, either through your telehealth services or through a free screening like the one offered by Mental Health America. Screenings operate just like any other medical exam, but depression screenings rely on your honest answers to questions about your lifestyle and behaviors, like your appetite, energy, and mood.
Why should you be screened?
Screenings aren’t used for a professional diagnosis, but depending on your answers, you and your physician can determine if you are experiencing symptoms of depression, which can lead to treatment options under the care of a qualified mental health professional.
Who should be screened?
Anyone can benefit from a depression screening, but there are a few symptoms which might indicate a higher likelihood of depression or anxiety including:
- Mood swings
- Feeling persistently anxious or empty
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Weight and appetite changes
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Chronic fatigue
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Thoughts of suicide or death
If depression doesn’t run in your family or you’ve never experienced it before, sometimes it can be difficult to determine if you’re experiencing symptoms. There are also a few different types of depression and knowing the signs of each can help you take note of how you feel. Here are just a few of the most common:
- Major depressive disorder: This type of depression is long-term. Symptoms often include all of the ones listed above. You might have this type of depression if you are feeling this way most of the time.
- Bipolar disorder: Those with bipolar disorder experience what is sometimes called “manic depression” which involves different mood episodes of feeling highly energized and low phases that involve major depression symptoms. This mental illness often responds well to medications to help stabilize mood.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): SAD is a type of major depression that typically affects people during the fall and winter months when days are shorter and there is less sunlight. The lack of sunlight can affect serotonin (the happy hormone) levels in the brain. Treatment often involves light therapy and antidepressant medications.
- Postpartum Depression: Postpartum depression is a common illness that affects mothers shortly after giving birth. It is often caused by a drastic change in hormones and in lifestyle. Symptoms often start within a few days of giving birth and last for a few weeks—they include feelings of hopelessness, crying spells, loss of interest in people and activities, negative feelings about your baby, anxiety, irritability, feelings of sadness, and fatigue.
No matter what you might be experiencing, everyone should prioritize their mental health. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Although some mental illnesses respond best to medication and therapy, mental health can often be managed through lifestyle changes and self-care. Here are a few tips for addressing minor mental health issues:
- Prioritize sleep
- Make a change to your routine (add a new hobby, adopt a dog, try something new)
- Practice mindfulness through meditation or journaling
- Get daily fresh air. Research shows that spending just 20 minutes outside each day can improve your mental health.
- Exercise. This doesn’t mean you have to run a marathon! Simply move your body more often through something you love, like dancing, jumping on a trampoline, or walking around the neighborhood.
- Connect with others. Spending time with friends and family does wonders for your mental wellbeing.
- Seek treatment when in need
If you think you are struggling with depression, please know that you are not alone. Take a screening. Visit your physician. Talk to your loved ones. Know there is hope and help for you. Most of all, don’t give up. There are solutions to help you feel like yourself again.
And if you yourself aren’t struggling, help spread awareness for National Depression Screening Day and encourage your loved ones to seek help.
If you or someone you know is at risk for suicide, please seek help. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24-hours/day by dialing 988.