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Online Depression Screening Effective

UCONN Health provides us with an article supporting our screening initiative in the Roaring Fork Valley:

A new study from an organization that provides depression screenings — quick measures to help a person determine whether they may be at increased risk for depression — has found that more than half of the people who undergo a screening then seek out treatment for depression.

The researchers found that over half of participants in the 2008 National Depression Screening Day sought depression treatment within three months following their initial screening.

“The results of this study are very encouraging as they reinforce the effectiveness of anonymous, web-based screening programs in connecting individuals at risk for depression with treatment resources,” said Douglas G. Jacobs, M.D., Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and founder of Screening for Mental Health, Inc.

“Early detection of mental health disorders such as depression greatly increases the chances that an individual will receive the appropriate treatment and experience a better quality of life.”

The study was conducted by Robert Aseltine, Ph.D., professor of behavioral sciences and community health and director of the Institute for Public Health Research at the University of Connecticut Health Center.

Dr. Aseltine surveyed 322 participants who completed the depression screening tool online between October and December 2008 and sought to evaluate the success of online screenings in leading individuals into treatment.

According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, nearly two thirds of people suffering from depression do not seek help, but the NDSD survey suggests that confidential online screenings, which are highly accessible and nonthreatening to users, may help to improve these statistics.

Findings from the survey include:

  • 55 percent of participants sought depression treatment within three months of screening.
  • 31 percent of these had never previously been treated for depression.
  • Of those seeking treatment, 52 percent received both counseling and medication, 28 percent received medication only, and 13 percent received counseling only.
  • Over one third of participants with a likelihood of depression said that medication had helped “a lot.”
  • 55 percent of those who initially scored “Very Likely for Depression” — the highest possible score range in the NDSD screening — were no longer in that range at followup.
  • 46 percent of those who initially scored “Likely for Depression” were in the “Unlikely for Depression” range at followup.

In recognition of National Depression Screening Day on Thursday, October 8, community organizations, primary care providers, colleges and military installations throughout the nation will offer free, anonymous mental health screenings to educate members of the public on the symptoms of depression and the appropriate course of action to take. Individuals will have the opportunity to complete a brief questionnaire, and speak with a health care professional regarding their personal situations.

“The goal of NDSD is to reach that portion of the population with depression who are not seeking help,” said Jacobs. “We have found these questionnaires and screenings to be a critical first step in educating individuals on how to seek help themselves or help loved ones who may be struggling with depression by recognizing certain behaviors.”

For more information about National Depression Screening Day, to locate a site that is holding an event on October 8, or to take a screening online, visit You can also take Psych Central’s depression screening quiz, which gives you instant, free results.

The National Depression Screening Day is the nation’s oldest voluntary, community-based screening program for depression and related disorders, provides individuals with the opportunity to anonymously complete a validated screening questionnaire, receive educational information about depression, and obtain a recommendation and referral for further evaluation if warranted.

All Adults Should Be Routinely Screened

Separately, the American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM) supports the recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) that primary care providers should screen all adults for depression, and further recommends that all primary care providers should have systems in place to ensure the accurate diagnosis and treatment of this condition. The earliest and best opportunities to identify depression are in the clinics of primary care providers and all primary care practices should have such systems of care in place.

According to Dr. Michael T. Compton, one of the lead authors of ACPM’s recommendation, “Depressive disorders are common in primary care settings and are associated with substantial morbidity and disability for individuals, as well as direct and indirect costs to society. Yet, depression is a highly treatable condition, and the goal of treatment is complete recovery.”

“We believe that all primary care providers should be equipped to screen for depression and to assure timely and adequate treatment, either in their own practices or through an established system of referral to mental health professionals.”

Depression is a potentially life-threatening disorder that affects approximately 14.8 million Americans 18 years of age and older in a given year. Depression also affects many people younger than age 18. The STAR*D (Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression) study found that nearly 40 percent had their first depressive episode before the age of 18.

Source: Screening for Mental Health and the American College of Preventive Medicine 

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