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Online screening: First step toward help for depression

Sad feelings that don’t go away in days, weeks or longer — that’s what we tend to think of when clinical depression is mentioned. But it’s some of the other symptoms of depression — decreased energy, difficulty making decisions and feelings of hopelessness — that can make reaching out for much-needed help seem overwhelming.

Since its February launch, Edward Hospital’s online screening, DepressionAware, has offered an important first step to people concerned about such feelings, or their risk of depression in the future. And it’s a step that can be completed in five minutes from the comfort of home — any time, day or night.

According to Maureen Kunz, manager of resource and referral at Linden Oaks at Edward, close to 1,500 people have completed the DepressionAware questionnaire since it became available. Filling out the questionnaire generates a report on your risk of depression and tips for good mental health.

“What makes this process unique, though, is that DepressionAware goes beyond what’s done in other online depression screenings,” Kunz says.

Specifically, the system triggers follow up if your score suggests a heightened risk of depression. If you’ve provided a phone number, you’ll receive a call within 24 hours from a Linden Oaks clinician who will offer you a free mental health assessment. If you prefer not to submit contact information, the DepressionAware screening provides the number at Linden Oaks so you can schedule a free assessment.

“We take every measure to protect confidentiality and to give you options when going through the screening and assessment,” said Dan Knapp, a social worker at Linden Oaks. “We don’t share any information without your permission.”

The assessment at Linden Oaks includes an interview with a nurse about any physical health issues, and a meeting with a clinician for the mental health evaluation.

“Depression can accompany a diagnosis of serious illness, such as heart disease, cancer or diabetes,” Linden Oaks counselor Sharla Vittorio says. “Some people have trouble coping with the changes these conditions bring.”

Reports from these sessions are shared with a psychiatrist who determines the level of care needed.

“The final recommendation can be linking the patient to counseling and other resources in the community, or to hospital-based services, such as a partial hospitalization program or inpatient care,” Knapp says.

Mental health hospitals in Illinois and out of state have contacted Linden Oaks to learn about starting this type of screening.

“It shows a growing awareness of the need for depression screening that includes follow-up,” Kunz says.

She believes the same can be said for anxiety screening, which Linden Oaks plans to address by offering AnxietyAware by the end of the year.

“I hear from people who said they’ve been depressed, but didn’t know where to go,” Vittorio says. “They said the screening gave them somewhere to turn.”

To take the DepressionAware test, visit www.edward.org/healthaware, where you can also find screenings to determine if you’re at risk for heart disease, stroke, breast cancer, lung disease and sleep disorders.

To learn more about a free mental health assessment at Linden Oaks, call 630-305-5027.

Courtesy of Edward Hospital

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