Coming soon to your checkup: A check for depression

U-M Depression Center Executive Director Supports New Recommendation for Screening in the General Adult Population

Today, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) put out a recommendation suggesting expanded screenings for depression in the general adult population, including pregnant and postpartum women.stethbrainsm-300x200

It stated that “screenings should be implemented with adequate systems in place to ensure accurate diagnosis, effective treatment, and appropriate follow-up.”  This was an update of the 2009 USPSTF recommendation on screening for depression in adults.

John Greden, M.D., executive director of the U-M Depression Center, strongly endorses these recommendations. Read on for his thoughts:

As the Executive Director of the U-M Comprehensive Depression Center and as the Founding Chair of the National Network of Depression Centers, I applaud the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force for taking this common-sense step towards better integrated healthcare system. Identifying mental health conditions early on can lead to an earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Eighteen percent of Americans have a mental health condition, or nearly 1 in 5.

The earlier these illnesses are treated the more effective the treatments are.

Mental illnesses should be treated no differently than physical illnesses. Symptoms of depression may include feeling sad; feeling tired or less energetic; feeling hopeless; or withdrawing from friends and avoiding activities one typically enjoyed.

Sometimes, patients do not feel as comfortable bringing up their feelings to their doctor independently. However, when directly asked, patients may be more likely to be open and honest.

This is why I support including depression screenings in routine physical exams. Just as adults have their blood pressure checked periodically, a routine check-in on an individual’s mental health should be a regular part of an annual exam.

Speaking up signals a sign of strength, not weakness. Talking about your issues openly can be very cathartic, and talking about your thoughts with an expert can add valuable perspective.

Psychiatrists and social workers are trained to understand anxiety and depression and can help manage symptoms of depression. Experts can help reframe some of the negative thoughts we tend to have and move us to a state of mind where we can cope with those difficulties.

Pregnant and post-partum women may be at increased risk for depression. Depression, anxiety, and other mood fluctuations are commonly experienced by women during significant life changes such as puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. These fluctuations during pregnancy and postpartum can be especially challenging.

The perinatal period, as it is called, is a particularly unique time given the changes in hormones, sleep patterns, role transitions, financial and social strains, and increased stress often experienced by women. This is why I have a hope that expanded screenings may relieve some of the stress associated with challenging life event.

My hope is that expanded screenings will open the door to a larger conversation about mental health and that millions of people who currently go untreated will take the initial steps to attaining and maintaining wellness. The first step must involve screening.

More information:

The USPSTF report appears in the January 26 issue of JAMA. To see the full study, please visit http://jama.jamanetwork.com/journal.aspx.

Learn more about the U-M Depression Center by visiting http://www.depressioncenter.org/.