A nation-wide initiative, National Depression Screening Day aims to connect people to in-person and online screening resources for mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. The 2018 theme, Reach Out, encourages individuals to be vigilant of signs of depression and to take a depression screening for themselves or recommend it to a loved one.

As a nation-wide crisis, major depressive disorder affects almost 7 percent of the American population every year and is the number one cause of disability for people ages 15–44. Although depression is one of the most well-known mental illnesses, more can be done to help people understand how to recognize signs of depression in themselves and their loved ones.

What Does It Mean to Have Depression?

Major depressive disorder, commonly referred to as clinical depression, is a serious mood disorder that can impact how you feel, think and behave. Depression is different from occasional mood swings, feelings of sadness and general apathy. For you to be diagnosed with depression, your mental and physical symptoms must have been occurring for at least two weeks. Common symptoms of depression include loss of interest in daily activities, suicidal thoughts, feelings of worthlessness, lethargy and loss of appetite. If left untreated, depression can last indefinitely and severely damage your overall health, job performance and interpersonal relationships.

If you feel that you may be experiencing depression, you can take a depression screening test online or in-person to assess your symptoms. However, an online test cannot substitute for a clinical diagnosis of depression. The best way to know whether you struggle with depression is to be diagnosed by a primary care physician, mental health practitioner, licensed therapist or psychiatrist.

Who Should Take a Depression Screening Test?

Mental illness does not discriminate. Anyone can develop depression, regardless of their age, ethnicity or background. However, depression is more common among people who:

  • Have a family history of mental illness.
  • Have another mental illness like anxiety.
  • Struggle with a substance use disorder, like drug addiction or alcoholism.
  • Recently experienced a stressful life change or traumatic event.

If you or someone you love experiences any of the common risk factors and warning signs associated with depression, you could benefit from taking an online or in-person depression screening. These factors and symptoms can include:

  • Loss of energy or motivation.
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities.
  • Feelings of guilt, restlessness, hopelessness, worthlessness or fear.
  • Sleeping too much or too little.
  • Changes in appetite or eating behavior.
  • Poor concentration.
  • Suicidal thoughts.

Published by the educational organization TED-Ed, this short animation explains depression with helpful illustrations and offers simple ways to help someone with this condition.

Why Does It Matter to Test for Depression?

Depression testing is important because mental wellness matters just as much as physical health, and your psychological well-being affects every area of your life. Screening for signs of depression is every bit as important as testing for physical illnesses because:

  • Depression is a serious medical condition, not a moral failing or personality flaw.
  • Anyone can experience depression at any point in life.
  • Social stigma surrounding mental illnesses discourages people from getting help.
  • Mental illnesses like depression can lead to drug and alcohol misuse.
  • Untreated depression can lead to suicide.
  • Depression tests can be the first step toward getting help.

Why Don’t People Take Depression Screening Tests?

Depression is a debilitating condition, but it’s also one that causes people to self-silence and not speak up about their struggles. Given that depression is a mental illness, many symptoms are intangible and not entirely noticeable, unlike those of many physical diseases. This can make someone think that their depression is “all in their head” and they may feel ashamed of, or guilty about, their feelings. Believing that depression is something they should be able to control, many people deny their need for professional treatment, often for years on end. On average, people struggle with mental illnesses like depression for 10 years before asking for help, according to the World Health Organization.

Husband comforts wife dealing with depression

How to Help Someone Who Is Depressed

Since people who face depression may not ask for help, reach out if you notice any signs of depression in someone you love. There are numerous ways, both significant and small, to show someone you care, and every effort to help can make a world of difference for someone who struggles with depression.

If a friend, family member or coworker is depressed, you can:

  • Talk openly about mental illness: Frequently, mental illnesses are a taboo topic. A candid conversation about depression reduces the stigma surrounding mental illness and can make someone feel less isolated. Remind them that depression is a medical condition, and not something to be ashamed of or something they should be able to “just snap out of.”
  • Ask if they’re contemplating suicide: In some cases, suicidal thoughts can accompany depression. This is normal and talking about suicide (and saying the word) does not cause someone to act on their suicidal thoughts. In fact, asking the straightforward question, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” can reduce someone’s risk of suicide.
  • Help them locate therapists in the area: Talk therapy with a mental health counselor can help your loved one begin to understand and work through their depression. Ask your friend or family member if they are willing to go to therapy, and if they are, offer to find a local counselor and drive them to a consultation, if necessary. Getting help can seem like a monumental task to someone who’s depressed, so your help can be invaluable to them.
  • Offer to help with daily tasks: When someone struggles with depression, they may lack the energy and motivation to maintain a household or care for themselves. You can offer to clean your loved one’s house, babysit, do laundry, cook a healthy meal or take care of their pet. These small gestures can be incredibly meaningful to someone who struggles with depression.

Get Help for Co-Occurring Depression and Substance Use Disorder

If you or someone you love struggles with depression and a drug or alcohol addiction, effective treatment is available to help you overcome both conditions. Clinicians at The Recovery Village offers each individual a dual diagnosis treatment program, or a diagnosis that screens for mental illness and substance use disorder. This dual diagnosis informs co-occurring disorder treatment, which is a specific type of rehab care that treats mental illness and addiction simultaneously. To learn more about co-occurring disorder treatment, call The Recovery Village at 352.771.2700 today.