During Mental Illness Awareness Week on Oct. 1-7, 2017, National Association for Mental Illness (NAMI) and other mental health participants across the United States are raising awareness of mental illness and the effects it can have on individuals throughout the country. Each year mental health awareness week promotes campaigns nationwide to fight stigma against mental health, to educate the public about mental health, to advocate for equal care and to support those who are battling a mental health disorder. National Depression Screening Day takes place October 5th during Mental Illness Awareness Week and is implicated to raise awareness about depression and the signs and symptoms associated with depression. National Depression Screening Day was first established in 1990 and since has spread to college campuses, community-based organizations and military installations providing the public with awareness about depression and an optional screening component.

Get the facts on depression

Major depressive disorder affects more than 15 million adults in the United States and presents with feelings of sadness, sleep disturbance, loss of interest in activities, feelings of guilt, loss of energy, difficulty concentrating, changes in appetite, psychomotor agitation, sadness and even suicidal ideation. In can occur in adult men and women as well as adolescents and can affect any individual regardless of race, religion or social economic status.  Depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States and costs the U.S. society $210 billion per year. Approximately only 40% of this amount is associated with depression itself whereas the other 60% of this money is spent on lost wages, interventions for suicidal attempts and treatment for other co-occurring disorders associated with depression.

Signs and symptoms of depression

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM V), at least five of the following symptoms must be present within a two-week period with at least one of the symptoms being depressed mood. These symptoms must create apparent distress in occupational and social functioning:

  • Sleep disturbance: This can present with a need for an increase in sleep, problems falling asleep, difficulties, staying asleep, or waking up without feeling rested.
  • Loss of interest in activities: Individuals no longer care about their hobbies or things they love. They may stop attending church, social groups or have a decreased interest in sex. Activities that once brought joy no longer are of interest to the individual.
  • Feelings of guilt: An individual will criticize themselves for their mistakes or faults, which can be characterized as self blame or self loathe.
  • Loss of energy: Feeling of fatigue may be present throughout the day. An individual may feel sluggish no matter how much sleep they get. Small tasks may be exhausting to compete and one may feel as if their body is extremely heavy.
  • Difficulty concentrating: Problems focusing, making decisions or remembering events may occur. Everyday things such as finances, work related tasks or studying might take longer or seem impossible.
  • Change in appetite: Never feeling hungry or constantly wanting to eat can result in weight loss or weight gain. Some individuals cover up their emotions with food and may binge whereas other individuals may have no interest in food.
  • Psychomotor agitation: These are unintentional movements without any purpose such as pacing back and forth, uncontrolled tongue movements, picking at nails, skin or clothing, and hand wringing that stem from mental tension.
  • Sadness: Associated with crying for unknown reasons, feelings of helpless or hopelessness, pessimistic outlook, agitated, restless or even feelings of violence.
  • Suicide ideations: Thoughts or plans of suicide.

Screening tools for depression

There are many screening tools used for depression and usually consist of a series of 12-19 questions associated with signs and symptoms of depression. Screening tools are not used to diagnosis a specific disorder but rather they are used to assess whether an individual is at risk for a specific disorder and can then be referred to a specialist for formal diagnosis and treatment. Below is a list of depression screening tools that are listen from most common to least common.

  • Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS)
  • Beck Depression Inventory (BDI)
  • Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ)
  • Major Depression Inventory (MDI)
  • Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D)
  • Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale (SDS)
  • Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS)
  • Cornell Scale for Depression in Dementia (CSDD)