Yesterday, October 6, was the 25th annual National Depression Screening Day. A day when healthcare professionals across the United States stress the importance of screening for depression and other mental illnesses. The intent of the initiative is to raise awareness about depression and help individuals with the condition find opportunities for assessment and treatment.
For many of us, the term “depression” probably makes us think of symptoms such as feeling sad, down, and anxious. While those are common symptoms, it’s important to know that depression can also cause physical symptoms. People sometimes spend a lot of time trying to research and treat the perceived physical causes of their symptoms, only to find no physical source and instead learn that their depression is making them experience physical symptoms too. For example, some people with depression experience headaches; and regular migraine sufferers oftentimes find that depression makes the pain worse and more frequent. Other ways that depression can manifest itself as physical symptoms are muscle and joint pain; appetite changes; difficulty sleeping or falling asleep; and much more.
The National Institutes of Health reports that approximately 12 percent of patients seen by primary-care physicians have major depression. However, accurately diagnosing those patients with such depression can be very challenging in that a variety of other illnesses – mental and physical – present similar symptomatology. Additionally, depression often co-occurs with other major disorders making it even more difficult to diagnosis accurately.
Consequently, thorough screening for depression (and other mental illnesses) by competent professionals is necessary in order to make an accurate diagnosis. We can help the diagnostic process significantly by identifying and monitoring our symptoms ahead of time and being prepared to share and explain them in as much detail as possible.
If you believe that you have any of the symptoms of depression, visit your healthcare provider. Be sure to share with your provider if you think that depression might be causing your symptoms. You can take a quick mental health self-assessment at HealthyMindsUtah.Org to help you determine if you have symptoms consistent with depression.
I am posting this message on October 7, the day after the National Depression Screening Day. Not because I forgot to post it yesterday or was not otherwise actively involved supporting the initiative, but I do so today in order to drive and reinforce the idea that today – an unheralded day – is also a good day to talk about and take on depression. Depression knows no schedule and is no respecter of national screening days, convenience, or good timing.
So if today, or tomorrow, or next month is the “right time” for you, then let’s take it on then. We don’t have to wait for a designated day or event in order to take action. We can, and should, talk about and see to our mental health as often as, and with as much dedication and commitment as, we do our physical health, because mental health matters.
And so do you.