Today marks the 25th year of National Depression Screening Day (NDSD), an effort to reach people across the country with needed mental health education and connect them with support services. Started in 1990 by Screening for Mental Health (SMH), NDSD reminds all adults to consider their mental health as important as their physical health by participating in free screenings.
Depression affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older. According to 2005 U.S. Census Bureau Estimates, major depressive disorder is said to develop at any age, the median age of onset being 32. There are several types of depression disorders, all caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.
Although signs and symptoms can vary by class, typical presentation includes:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Irritability and restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Overeating or appetite loss
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
- Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
The World Health Organization predicts that depression will become the second-leading contributor to the global burden of disease by 2020, behind heart disease. Like many physical illnesses, early recognition and treatment offers the best opportunity for recovery from mental illness. If left untreated, suicide can be a fatal response to depression.
Depression screenings are important because the condition is treatable. Up to 80 percent of those treated for depression show an improvement in their symptoms generally within four to six weeks of beginning medication, psychotherapy, attending support groups or a combination of these treatments.
Since NDSD’s founding, thousands of organizations worldwide, including hospitals, mental health centers, social service agencies, government agencies, military installations, older adult facilities, primary care clinics, colleges, secondary schools, corporations, and HMOs, have utilized SMH’s educational and screening programs.
“Eradicating the stigma surrounding mental illness is paramount in diagnosis and recovery,” Douglas Jacobs, MD, founder and medical director, Screening for Mental Health Inc., said in the release. “In order to be recognized as the public health issue that it is, depression needs to garner the same attention as physical health. National Depression Screening Day has played a key role in raising awareness for 25 years, and we’d like to use this milestone to reinforce that checking in on your mental health is as important as checking in on your physical health.”
If you or someone you know is interested in a depression screening, visit HelpYourselfHelpOthers.org