According to research from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), approximately 40 million adults age 18 or older in the United States suffer from an anxiety disorder, with only 36.9 percent receiving ongoing treatment. In honor of National Depression Screening Day this October, we’re going to talk about the importance of destigmatizing mental illness and learn how to recognize the early signs of depression.
Destigmatizing Mental Illness
Stigmas and false notions on the realities of mental illness are often one of the largest barriers one faces when it comes to asking for help and receiving treatment or support. These stigmas can also hurt those who have already been diagnosed and cause them to feel like they are less capable than others.
In order to help overcome this harmful mentality, we need to reconsider and evaluate what we deem as “normal” and continually treat others with the respect they deserve.
Our approach should encompass the following three principles:
- Neurodiversity is a valuable form of human diversity.
- The belief that there is only one type of “normal” or one way to be “healthy” is both damaging and false.
- The same social principles that cause power dynamics in human populations can be affected by neurodiversity. Our reaction to these behaviors or backgrounds can become a source of creative potential, depending on our outlook.
Depression vs. Sadness
Sadness is a natural reaction in the spectrum of human emotion and often comes in varying degrees, fading over time. Depression, however, is a long-term mental illness that can affect other critical areas of functioning. This form of mental illness can impact both one’s social and occupational capabilities and if left untreated, last over a lifetime. If you’re not sure whether your experience is rooted in sadness or depression, consult with a doctor and receive a depression screening. Indications that you may need extra help could include persistent anxiety, feelings of emptiness, change in appetite, fatigue or thoughts of suicide.
The Screening Process
If you or a loved one has an appointment to meet with a doctor or expert for the first time, it’s okay to feel nervous. Overall, the depression screening process is simple and you can anticipate answering a number of questions from various professional screening scales:
- General Wellbeing: A doctor may use the standard Patient Healthcare Questionnaire (PHQ-9) and ask a series of questions regarding your mental health and behaviors over the past two weeks. These questions can range in topic from your diet to your energy levels or intrusive thoughts.
- Severity of Depression: Questions from the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) will gauge how severe or intense your symptoms are, and ultimately lead to a more targeted diagnosis. Patients answer questions on a scale from one to six, and the sum total of responses indicates severity to help guide a diagnosis. This scale is often used in correlation with the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) semi-structured guide of 21 questions.
One of the best ways to support National Depression Screening Day and general mental health awareness is through personal education. Whether for you or a loved one, that knowledge can help you destigmatize mental health, act with empathy and understand the proper steps to take when symptoms arise.