U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommends New Depression Screening Guidelines

By Marie Abate

An estimated seven percent of adults in the United States suffer from depression every year. Depression is one of the leading causes of disability in persons 15 years of age and older, and one of America’s most costly illnesses. Left untreated, depression costs more than $51 billion in absenteeism from work and lost productivity and $26 billion in direct treatment costs.1 Now, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is tackling depression head on by recommending that all adults, including women who are pregnant or who have recently given birth, undergo a screening for depression at their next doctor’s visit.

The recommendations from the task force, an independent panel, advise that everyone 18 and older be screened—and this screening does not necessarily have to come from a mental health clinic or from a mental health specialist. Primary care doctors, family doctors, obstetricians and gynecologists can also screen for depression.

One way doctors are screening patients is through a nine question test called the Patient Health Questionnaire. This questionnaire asks patients about mood, fatigue, appetite, interest in activities, and whether they have thought about hurting themselves in the last two weeks. However, other questionnaires are available, including one that simply asks two questions. Answering yes to either item on that test indicates that there is an issue that should be evaluated deeper.

When the responses come in, doctors can treat patients right away and provide mental health support and resources. The primary care provider may make a referral to a mental health provider, but there is also enormous value when initial evaluation and treatment can be made in a primary care setting. Treatment for depression can be offered as psychotherapy, medication or a combination of the two.
Experts hope that screening early give thousands of Americans opportunities to speak up if they are feeling depressed, get support and receive professional help and treatment.

To learn more about these recommendations, you can visit the USPSTF website.

1 http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/about-us

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By Marie Abate,