Free, Confidential Tool Available Online
If you have symptoms of depression, a free, quick, confidential online screening tool can put you on the path to better health. October is National Depression Screening Month and a time to access online depression screening and seek treatment.
If you suffer from depression, you are not alone—more than 50% of Americans now meet the clinical definition of depression or anxiety disorder. The average share of adults reporting symptoms of depressive disorder and/or anxiety disorder jumped from 11% in January 2019 to 41% in January 2021. The pandemic has had significant impact on many people’s mental health.
A screening takes only a few minutes and, when finished, you receive information about potential next steps based on the results. A screening does not indicate a diagnosis, but it’s a helpful tool for understanding your mental health and a starting point for reaching out for help.
According to Kelly Miskovski, director of community outreach, Mental Health Advocates of WNY, checking up on your mental health is just as important as going to the doctor for a physical checkup.
“Clinical depression is a serious medical illness that affects men and women of all ages, races, and socio-economic groups,” Miskovski said. “Taking a mental health screening is one of the quickest and easiest ways to determine whether you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition.”
According to Miskovski, if the tool indicates that the individual is experiencing symptoms of depression, there is a brief narrative that comes up at the end of the screening with information on what the screening results mean and what you can do as the next step.
“There’s an option to email your results to yourself so that you can show a professional,” she said. “There is also a search tool to find local treatment providers by entering your zip code. Additionally, there are several links to different topics related to depression so that the individual can educate themselves on the condition.”
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the U.S. and research suggests that depression is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression can happen at any age, but often begins in adulthood. Risk factors include personal or family history of depression, major life changes, trauma, or stress or certain physical illnesses and medications.
Depression, even the most severe cases, can be treated. The earlier that treatment can begin, the more effective it is. Depression is usually treated with medications, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two.
Finding a Therapist
Riannon Martin, clinical director, Spectrum Health and Human Services’ downtown counseling center, says finding a counselor does not need to be difficult but it’s important to find the right one.
“You can ask your primary medical doctor as they usually have a list of local mental health clinics they will refer individuals to,” Martin said. “Additionally, Psychology Today is a great resource to utilize. It has a list of professionals in your surrounding area including their specialties. This can help match a counselor with your needs and goals.”
Another resource to help individuals arrange counseling is to contact Mental Health Advocates of WNY at 716-886-1242 and talk with an information & referral specialist.
- If you are in crisis, call Crisis Services at 716-834-3131 or the 24-Hour Addiction Hotline at 716-831-7007
- Call 211 to access the complete database of services in your area
- Erie County Department of Mental Health offers a list of agencies
- Erie County Anti-Stigma Coalition resource page lists agencies offering mental health providers
Referrals are not needed, and most insurances are accepted for mental health treatment. Many operate on a sliding scale for patients without insurance.
According to Martin, the first session will include you and the counselor establishing a therapeutic relationship, understanding the counseling process and services. Additionally, the counselor will gather information to understand what brings you in for counseling services.
“Don’t be afraid to already have a list of questions for the counselor, especially if this is your first counseling experience. Additionally, it is good to have a set of your own personal expectations and goals,” she said.
Depression can present different symptoms, depending on the person. But for most people, depressive disorder changes how they function day-to-day, and typically for more than two weeks. Common symptoms include:
- Changes in sleep
- Changes in appetite
- Lack of concentration
- Loss of energy
- Lack of interest in activities
- Hopelessness or guilty thoughts
- Changes in movement (less activity or agitation)
- Physical aches and pains
- Suicidal thoughts
Knowing a depressed person can affect you too. The most important thing to do is to help him/her get an appropriate diagnosis and treatment. Other ways to lend a hand:
- Offer emotional support, understanding, patience and encouragement.
- Be a good listener.
- Never ignore comments about suicide; report them to your friend’s relative or doctor or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK.
- Invite your friend to do things with you; if he/she declines, keep trying, but don’t push.
- Remind your friend that with time and treatment, the depression will lift.