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MO Mental Health in Focus for Depression Screening Day

Psychiatrist or professional psychologist consulting on diagnostics
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National Depression Screening Day is this Thursday, Oct. 6. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI, pronounced "NAH-mee") reports depression affects one in five Americans every year, and 40% don't seek treatment.

With many people still struggling in the wake of the pandemic, this week's National Depression Screening Day Oct. 6 is a reminder to Missourians to take stock of their mental health.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports the average delay between the onset of mental illness symptoms and treatment is 11 years.

Gena Terlizzi, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Missouri, said people need to make mental health screening as routine as other checkups.

"We really like to encourage people to think of depression screening like you would any other kind of health screening," Terlizzi emphasized. "What we're hoping to do with this is really normalize the idea that a check-in for your depression or for your mental health is just as normalized as a check-in for physical health."

Terlizzi noted the way clinicians determine if depression is at a level requiring treatment is a question you can ask yourself: "Is it impacting your day-to-day life, long-term?"

Statistics indicate one in five U.S. adults experiences mental illness each year, yet more than 40% do not seek treatment. Terlizzi pointed out some people may be reluctant to seek treatment because they do not want to be on medication.

"Certainly, some people are nervous about the idea of getting mental health treatment or being on a medication," Terlizzi acknowledged. "Just because you talk to your doctor doesn't mean you're going to be prescribed a medication. You need to work with your doctor to figure out what works for you."

Symptoms of depression are varied, and there are different speeds of depression onset, multiple types of depression, and different intensities.

Denise Johnson, senior practice associate for the National Association of Social Workers, said a screening looks at several factors.

"Typical screening is done by a licensed mental health professional and includes a set of questions that asks about symptom severity and duration," Johnson explained. "It's looking at eating-sleeping patterns, whether a person is having difficulty concentrating; if they're irritable, if there are any changes in their moods."

Johnson added depressive symptoms must last at least two weeks and represent a change from the person's previous level of functioning.

KRCU Public Radio is a partner with Missouri Public News Service.

Brett brings 7 years of radio news writing experience at Metro Source. His reporting expertise is in monetary policy, economic systems, resource distribution, rent-seeking, and neo-feudalism.