Have you ever had a mental health screening? October is National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month, and this common practice can be a true life-saver. Let’s explore what happens when you take a screening, how to analyze your results and how organizations like the Healthy365 Connection Center can help you find the support that you need.
What is a mental health screening?
A mental health screening is a quick and simple exam that can help determine the state of your mental wellness. You may receive one of these exams during a visit with your primary care provider if you are exhibiting symptoms of a mental disorder, but many physician’s offices have also made these screenings a standard practice. For example, most people who give birth will receive a screening at their one-week and six-week appointments because postpartum depression can be so prevalent. The purpose of a mental health screening is to diagnose mental conditions and help the recipient find appropriate treatment.
Where might I receive a mental health screening?
As mentioned, you are likely to receive a mental health screening in your primary care provider’s office in order to connect you with a mental health provider. If you are already seeing a mental health professional, they may administer a screening in order to best determine your course of treatment.
Due to the fact that approximately 50% of lifetime mental health conditions begin by age 14 and 75% begin by age 24, organizations like NAMI continue to advocate for periodic screenings in schools. The average delay between symptoms and treatment of a mental health condition is 11 years, and early intervention can bridge that gap. You can also easily access at-home mental health screenings online in order to identify symptoms and seek out treatment.
What happens during a screening?
There are several different types of mental health screenings. You may receive a more generalized screening to check for a variety of mental health symptoms, or you can take a screening based on specific symptoms you have been experiencing. You may want to speak with your healthcare provider or take an online test if you have been noticing common symptoms such as:
- Excessive worrying or fear
- Extreme sadness
- Major changes in personality, eating habits, and/or sleeping patterns
- Dramatic mood swings
- Anger, frustration, or irritability
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Confused thinking and trouble concentrating
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Avoidance of social activities
- Thinking about hurting yourself or attempting suicide — if you are feeling suicidal feelings, call the 988 Suicide Lifeline immediately
Many tests pose their questions in the following way, “Over the last 2 weeks, how often have you been bothered by the following problems,” which you can answer with “not at all, several days, more than half the days, or nearly every day.” With some physicians and mental health care professionals, you may just discuss your symptoms and answer questions aloud. In other cases, you may be asked to fill out a paper or digital questionnaire.
In addition to questions about your mood and behavior, your primary care provider may also give you a physical exam. Sometimes a physical disorder can cause mental health symptoms, such as thyroid disease, and a simple blood test can detect it.
What is the benefit of mental health screenings?
The biggest benefit to taking a mental health screening is earlier identification and intervention for mental health conditions. Many people who are affected by mental disorders will find improvement from medication and/or talk therapy with a mental health professional.
In a recent statement, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has recommended that all doctors should issue regular screenings for anxiety in adults under 65, even if they do not present symptoms. According to the Associated Press, “the recommendations are based on a review that began before the COVID-19 pandemic, evaluating studies showing potential benefits and risks from screening,” and given the surge in mental health concerns during the past few years, this guidance makes more sense than ever.
If you have taken a recent screening and/or would like to access help from a mental health professional, you can contact a Support Navigator at the Healthy365 Connection Center. Our team provides free and confidential services to walk alongside you and your family and connect you with local resources to support your mental health journey. Call us at 317-468-4231 today!