Largely because its victims often suffer in silence, depression can be a difficult condition to face -- or even recognize. How can you act if you're not quite sure there's a problem, whether with yourself or a loved one? Everybody has a bad day or two (or even a more extended period of tough times), but when is it indicative of something serious that requires treatment?
A potential solution comes in the form of depression screening programs, which help sufferers find relief, receive treatment, and better understand their condition in addition to helping them determine if they're depressed in the first place. It only takes one look at the numbers to understand the importance of identifying depression: With 6.7 percent of U.S. adults suffering a depressive episode in the past year, according to the National Institutes of Health, and about half of them not receiving treatment, it's easy to see why screenings are necessary to get people to take action.
Spreading the Word
Since its founding in 1990, Screening for Mental Health (SMH) has organized awareness campaigns targeted at various mental illnesses -- including major depression. Around the same time that SMH began its work, the U.S. Congress declared the first full week in October Mental Illness Awareness Week. Led by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, participants around the country hold events intended to educate people on various mental illnesses and offer advice on how to provide support, combat stigmas, and work toward equal care for sufferers. During that week, October 8, 2015, is specifically designated as National Depression Screening Day, with awareness events centered on depression in all its forms.
Included in the events scheduled for National Depression Screening day is, of course, optional depression screening. This includes an opportunity to speak with a qualified mental health professional, who can help you or a loved one better understand symptoms and -- if necessary -- seek and receive the right treatment.
Signs and Symptoms
How can you tell if you or a loved one is struggling with depression? Of course, only a qualified professional can make an official diagnosis, but the National Alliance on Mental Illness lists several common warning signs, including:
- Feeling sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks.
- Severe, problematic mood swings.
- Worries or fears that get in the way of regular activities.
- Sudden fear for no reason.
- Trying, or planning, to physically harm oneself.
- Risky behavior, such as reckless driving.
- Significant changes in eating patterns and weight.
- Repeated misuse of drugs or alcohol.
- Drastic changes in personality, behavior, and sleeping habits.
- Extreme difficulty focusing or sitting still.
If you see some of these depression symptoms in a loved one, the thought of approaching them about it can be daunting, but by being open, honest, and sincere about your concerns, you can help. You may also be able to take advantage of the events and depression screenings offered around the country on October 8 to continue the conversation.
If you are experiencing these symptoms yourself, please do not wait to seek help from a qualified professional. Organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness provide a help line that you can call for support and information. Just remember: You can feel better!