Depression screenings at all primary care visits?
Over 25 percent of Americans suffer from some form of depression, and it is expected to become the second leading cause of disability among adults by 2020. Despite the growing numbers, depression often goes undiagnosed.
This month, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released updated recommendations on depression screenings that suggest routine screenings for all patients in a primary care setting, including pregnant and postpartum women.
Previously, the recommendations suggested screening only those in higher risk groups and only when care support systems like case management and mental health treatment were already in place. The updated recommendations are currently in draft form and open for public comment until Aug. 24.
“Depression is a growing problem in this country and can affect anyone,” says Dr. Nirav Chudgar, internal medicine physician at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. “The societal stigma surrounding mental illness gives many the impression that people with depression look or act a particular way, but that thinking can be dangerous. Mental illness does not discriminate.”
The task force updated its recommendations because mental health support is becoming more widely available. When support is paired with routine screening and early treatment, task force officials believe physicians can reduce depression symptoms and improve outcomes for their patients.
“Like any illness, untreated depression can have a grave impact on a person’s quality of life,” says Dr. Chudgar. “It can make it more difficult to manage other health conditions and maintain a job and can have a large negative impact on their children and other loved ones. I hope that these new recommendations not only help more people connect with the care they need, but help lessen the societal stigma on mental health.”
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, common symptoms of depression can include:
- Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Feeling hopeless or empty
- Forgetting things or having trouble making decisions
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Gaining or losing weight without trying
- Thinking about suicide or death
“Feeling sad is a normal human emotion, but extended sadness can be a sign of trouble,” says Dr. Chudgar. “If someone thinks they may be depressed, they should schedule an appointment with their doctor to discuss it as soon as possible.”