Did you know that National Depression Screening Day is October 6th?  While this might be a specific date to raise awareness on the importance of screening people for depression, any day is a good day to get screened yourself.

In this article, we are going to discuss how to get access to screening, what to expect, and what to do with your results.  To do this, we are going to reference the PHQ-9, which is the most used screening tool for depression in the United States.

Where to Get Screened

The best place to get screened is with a medical professional.  While the questions to the PHQ-9 are available on the internet, you should not administer the test on yourself.  A medical professional is not only trained in how to explain and interpret the questions, but they will also know how to interpret the results.  Plus, even if you take the screening on your own time, a mental health professional will require you to take it again.

A medical professional can also determine if your answer to a question is based off another medical condition.  For example, the PHQ-9 asks about changes in sleep patterns, therefore if you have a sleep disorder, it can be challenging to determine if the change in sleep pattern is because of the sleep disorder or depression. A medical professional can help determine this.

Most medical providers have access to mental health screening tools.  They include:

  • General physicians
  • Mental Health Specialists
  • Urgent care clinics or hospitals
  • Mental health practitioners

However, there is an order we recommend in terms of finding a place to get screened.  First, if you have a mental health provider, we recommend starting there.  Not only will your provider have access to this screening tool, but a physician will most likely refer you to a mental health provider anyway.  If there are long wait times or you are unsure how to get started with finding a mental health provider, we recommend you talk to your general physician next, and ask if they can do a mental health screening.  Lastly, try reaching out to another doctor or inquire if a local urgent care can screen you.

What to Expect

When you get screened for depression you will be asked a series of questions which identify different possible symptoms of depression.  You will notice that many of the questions range from ‘too much’ to ‘too little.  For example, eating too much or eating too little. The reason why there will be so much variability is because those who are suffering with depression may experience changes in these areas in either direction.

Some providers will offer you a modified version of the screening, which is usually two questions, while others will ask you the full screening which is nine questions.  While nine questions may seem like a lot, it is a way to get a very comprehensive overview of what you are experiencing to make the best assessment.  It is important to be honest with your provider so you get accurate results.

  • If you get screened by a mental health provider, the next step will most likely be coming up with a plan of treatment.
  • If you were screened by a physician, the next step will most likely be connecting you to a mental health provider and discussing strategies of what to do in the meantime.

Next Steps

Getting a mental health diagnosis can come with many emotions.  Upon receiving your results, it is important to remind yourself that regardless of the results, there are plenty of people who have had different potential outcomes of the screening.  The other thing to remind yourself is that your results are not stagnant and taking the screening at another time could yield different results.

There are two important steps you can take upon receiving your results.

  1. The first is to ask the provider who gave you your results any questions you have.  No question is too small to ask.  Make sure they explain to you what your results mean as well.
  2. Second, it is important to make sure you have a care plan you feel comfortable with in place by the time you leave the provider who screened you.

Here at Online-Therapy, we offer both depression screening and therapy for depression.