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National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month

Jennifer Martin, Social Media Intern

· Mental Health,Depression,Anxiety,Awareness,Advocacy

October Is National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month. On October 7th, 2021, National Depression and Mental Health Screening Day will be observed. 

Many people struggle with undiagnosed mental illness every day and those who do not get the proper diagnosis will ultimately not get the treatment that they need and deserve. There are nearly 300 mental disorders included in the DSM-5 which is short for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition which is a handbook used by mental health professionals to identify mental health symptoms and review criteria to diagnose mental illness. Two of the main group of mental disorders and the most commonly diagnosed are mood disorders and anxiety disorders. It is important to speak up if you feel that you are struggling with mental health or if you notice that someone in your life is struggling with mental health. Getting screened for mental illness is the first step to getting the help that you or a loved one may need and it can be life changing and lifesaving. 

DEPRESSION

Depression is a mood disorder and is also referred to as major depressive disorder. Depression affects 1 in every 15 adults annually and 1 in 6 people will experience depression in their lifetime at least once. This mental illness can not only have an emotional impact on someone, but depression can also manifest itself into physical symptoms as well. Depression symptoms range from mild, moderate, to more severe and include feelings of sadness, loss of interest in activities that used to bring you pleasure, loss of energy, weight gain or loss due to changes in appetite, feelings of guilt, feelings of fatigue or lack of energy, difficulty focusing, thinking, or decision making. Some of the more severe symptoms include thoughts of death and suicidal ideation. For those who are diagnosed with depression, there is hope. Depression is the one of the most treatable mental disorders with many patients responding well to either medication, psychotherapy, also called “talk therapy”, or a combination of both. 

ANXIETY DISORDER

Having anxiety and having an anxiety disorder are two different experiences. We can experience bouts of anxious feelings for all types of reasons. Those preparing for an upcoming exam may feel anxious the morning of, wondering if they prepared well enough for it, meeting someone for the first time on a first date, or waiting for your doctor to call you about important test results. Anxiety is usually a reaction to something that is upcoming but lingering in the mind until a resolution has come, or the moment has passed. Those who have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder don’t just experience the normal feelings of nervousness, rather, they can experience excessive fear in times when there is no immediate threat. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders and nearly 30% of adults are affected at some point in their lives. Anxiety is a normal reaction to stressors and can be a good thing as it can alert us to danger and prepare us to protect ourselves, however, it is important to understand the difference between anxious feelings and an anxiety disorder so that appropriate treatment can be provided. 

There are many treatments available for anxiety, both medication and non-pharmaceutical options. Talk therapy such as cognitive behavior treatment has been researched extensively as a successful form of treatment for those with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Other coping techniques include relaxation practices such as yoga and meditation, which A Friend of Mind is a very big proponent of. 

ADOLESCENT MENTAL HEALTH

Depression and Anxiety are not only experienced by adults, but many adults with these disorders had an onset of them in their childhood. Children and adolescents that are experiencing depression and anxiety disorders at a historical high rate. According to CDC data, depression and anxiety rates have increased over time for children and adolescents aged 6-17 years and According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly 1 in 3 of all adolescents ages 13 to 18 will experience an anxiety disorder. Several factors are contributing to the rise in depression and anxiety in this age group including high expectations in students to perform well academically and managing extracurricular activities more now than in previous generations, safety threats of school shootings or other terrorist attacks, having to participate in different drills and lockdowns, and the ever-growing issues surrounding the use of social media and the increased pressures of living up to what is perceived to be “a perfect life” as showcased on those platforms. 

It is important for children and adolescents to get treatment for mental disorders and while almost 80% of children aged 3-17 years with depression and nearly 60% of children aged 3-17 years with anxiety are receiving treatment, there are still issues of racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities that need to be addressed. While there is an increase in those receiving necessary treatment over the past few decades, children and adolescents are still experiencing poor mental health outcomes due to these disadvantages. In minority populations, studies have shown a higher prevalence of psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety disorders. Results from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) survey found that prevalence rates of sadness, suicidal ideal and attempts of suicide were higher among those who are Latino and African American youth compared to white youth

Undiagnosed and untreated mental illness can lead to a life of unnecessary suffering for those who are not getting the treatment they need. Those who do not receive appropriate treatment for their anxiety disorder and depression have a greater chance of attempting suicide or dying by suicide. We strongly encourage everyone who may be experiencing any of the signs and symptoms of a mental disorder to talk to your doctor immediately. There is help available and it could be lifesaving. 

For more information on child and teen depression and anxiety, and tips to manage anxiety and stress, please visit the following links:

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