Times they are a changing and that is no secret. Not so long ago we could find many ways to find peace and quiet and privacy. That is now becoming a thing of the past. With the world being so wired, media driven and quite frankly overwhelming, statistics are showing that these new abilities to connect with people and resources aren’t helping us when it comes to depression. Depression rates are on the rise and many people are living with the challenges that come with it. And although some stress in inevitable and we all have bad days, when depression takes hold, it can easily multiply stress and make the good days seem farther and farther apart. Could you be a candidate for depression? Did you ever wonder or wish there was a way to find out? There is, and not only that, but today is National Depression Screening Day.

Depression is not a bad day, or a just a case of bad luck and the blues. Depression is a health illness that affects more than 15 million Americans. In 2016 Boston University offered depression screenings to their students with nearly 350 screened. Out of the 350 screened, about 44% tested positive for anxiety and depression.  BU noted in their write up of the study that it was a significant increase from the 18% the year before. These increases aren’t just at BU, they are worldwide. Many people who are in the early stages of anxiety and depression don’t even know it, but a self-assessment might be just what they need to start taking measures towards preventing these concerns from getting worse.

Unfortunately depression isn’t something we can naturally control. If someone is struggling with depression they can’t just flick a switch and “feel better.” Some even note that pressures from social media and other media sources can add to the shame of admitting something isn’t right. While coping with depression it can be harder than ever to do even basic tasks such as taking care of personal health and hygiene, let alone reaching out for help, and many can hide their feelings from those around them and even those who love them the most. Through a screening one can learn about their vulnerabilities and explore the many ways of battling this disease known as depression.

Depression can be treated in many ways and often it’s not just “one thing.” Healthy lifestyle choices like eating well, exercising and sleeping can help. Avoiding alcohol and other substances can also benefit those trying to beat depression at any level. Some people will work with their healthcare providers to find proper medications or therapeutic techniques that can not only help them but also empower them to face life in a new light. If depression goes untreated it can become dangerous and in some cases deadly. From people who will struggle to take care of themselves leading to malnourishment or substance abuse to those who may develop thoughts of suicide and maybe act on those thoughts.

Depression doesn’t have to be deadly and many people can and will lead full lives with proper treatment and lifestyle management. But for some, they miss the first signs of this sometimes debilitating disease. Or we get so used to our feelings of mild depression and anxiety that we write it off as “normal” until we take a downward spiral. Consider taking a self-assessment or even reaching out to your medical or mental health care provider to be assessed. It’s not weird; it’s not something to be embarrassed about or shameful. Try to answer as honestly as possible!  It’s actually normal and wonderful to take control over our own health in any way we can.

Every year during October’s Mental Illness Awareness Week we observe National Depression Screening Day (NDSD) which includes awareness and encouragement for depression screenings. According to https://mentalhealthscreening.org, “National Depression Screening Day began as an effort to reach individuals across the nation with important mental health education and connect them with support services. Screening for Mental Health (SMH) pioneered National Depression Screening Day as the first, voluntary, mental health screening initiative in 1990.” This effort has grown nationwide and is supported in many different communities, military installations and schools. We can do our part by welcoming it into our community simply by taking the anonymous self-screening at http://helpyourselfhelpothers.org/  and sharing it with those around us. We screen ourselves for cancer, heart disease, diabetes and many other diseases. It’s time we start giving our mental health just as much priority. Make a depression screen part of your routine!