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How Conversations About Depression Can Help: Embrace the Awkward

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Has your doctor ever asked if you've experienced symptoms of depression? Screening can help identify and treat depression early, improving your overall health.

Why Does My Doctor Ask Me About Depression Symptoms?

Major depression is the most common mental health disorder according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Like many mental health illnesses, however, it is one of the least likely health concerns to be discussed among family, friends, and even caregivers.

McFarland Clinic providers conduct routine depression screenings in their offices to recognize early signs of mood disorders that could justify further evaluation. Depression screening uses subjective answers to give a provider insight into a person’s mental health and determine the risk of having depression.

For some individuals, major depression can result in severe impairments that interfere with or limit one’s ability to carry out major life activities. Depression screening can be a first step toward understanding symptoms and improving a person’s quality of life.

What Difference Do Depression Screenings Make?

Sarah Hayes, MD, McFarland Clinic Adult Medicine, shares how depression screenings in her practice have had a positive impact in patient care.

"More than once we have discovered an individual struggling with depression symptoms," says Dr. Hayes. "Some people who are struggling are good at hiding their symptoms. If we don’t ask, they won’t share."

What Are the Signs of Depression?

Depression screenings inquire about how often a person has had problems in the following areas:

  • Little interest or pleasure in doing things.
  • Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless.
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep, or sleeping too much.
  • Feeling tired or having little energy.
  • Poor appetite or overeating.
  • Feeling bad about yourself, or that you are a failure or have let yourself or your family down.
  • Trouble concentrating on things such as reading, watching television, school, or work.
  • Moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed. Or the opposite, being so fidgety or restless that you have been moving around a lot more than usual.
  • Thoughts that you would be better off dead or of hurting yourself.

What Are Some Statistics on Mental Health?

Statistics across the country show a rise in mental health concerns. According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), more than half of Americans report that COVID-19 has had a negative impact on their mental health. One in 20 US adults experience serious mental illness each year. One in six US youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year.

Now more than ever, the consistency of conducting a depression screening is important.

Why Should We Talk About Mental Health and Depression?

"More people are feeling isolated from the pandemic and having a hard time getting back into society," Dr. Hayes notes. "Self-care and reaching out to someone to ask how they are doing are also important steps to take."

Talking about mental health can be awkward, but it can help save lives. Dr. Hayes encourages people to “Embrace the Awkward.” She says it's important to start conversations about mental health to support friends or even to get help for ourselves.

What Should I Say When Talking to Someone About Mental Health?

These conversation starters can be helpful in knowing what to say to someone about mental health and depression.

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