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Calling Attention to Depression

Healthcare workers urged to participate in National Depression Screening Day on Oct. 8.

While people with depression are urged to seek advice from healthcare professionals, who do these professionals turn to when they experience this disorder? National Depression Screening Day is scheduled each October and is an opportune time to be screened. This Oct. 8, a free, anonymous mental health screening is available from Screening for Mental Health, Inc., a non-profit organization that offers mental health resources for businesses, organizations, colleges and schools. Screenings will take place at health facilities throughout the country. In areas where a screening isn't available, a free online screening tool can be accessed at http://helpyourselfhelpothers.org/.

Approximately 6.9% of adults in the United States, or 16 million people, report having at least one major depressive episode in the past year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health. Warning signs of depression include fatigue, distraction, insomnia, overeating or loss of appetite, feelings of hopelessness, and in some cases, thoughts of suicide. Despite experiencing these signs, many people fail to identify these characteristics in themselves.

Healthcare professionals are among the people who are prone to depression, explained authors Louise B Andrew, MD, JD, and Barry E Brenner, MD, PhD, FACEP, in their article "Physician Suicide." They write: "Depression is at least as common in the medical profession as in the general population, affecting an estimated 12% of males and 18% of females. Depression is even more common in medical students and residents, with 15% to 30% of them screening positive for depressive symptoms."

Andrew and Brenner report that "at least 400 physicians are lost to suicide each year - the equivalent of at least one entire medical school."

While depression among physicians has been studied more often than it has among other healthcare professions, experts believe the condition occurs at similar rates in other healthcare fields.

"What we can speak to regarding the healthcare workforce is the prevalence of burnout. And essentially what that means is the exhaustion, lack of motivation and enthusiasm that can accompany a high-stress job, particularly one where workers are emotionally invested in the well-being of those they are taking care of," said Sue Thorn, director of marketing and communications at Screening for Mental Health. "These are also signs and symptoms consistent with mental health issues such as depression."

Among people who treat patients who have depression, a stigma may also be present. Healthcare professionals may feel immune to this disorder. In Rob Goodier's article, "Medical Students' Perceptions on Depression May Point to Stigma Prevention," he notes that "[Medical students] also view a depression diagnosis as a cause for stigmatization and a career barrier. Researchers point to three variables as causes of much of the stigma: perceiving depression as a personal weakness, fearing social/professional discrimination, and fearing public devaluation."

Without treatment, depression can vastly impact the life of the affected professional and potentially all whom they encounter. Personal-care providers (home and residential care workers) are often cited as among the healthcare professionals who most often experience a mental health disorder. In Tammy Worth's article "Jobs and Depression," posted on Health.com, she explains that personal care can be stressful because it requires caring for people who are often incapable of expressing gratitude or appreciation.

Depression is also identified in people working in nursing and therapist roles. Not only do these professionals sacrifice for the well-being of others, but they also tend to work long, irregular hours while maintaining primary responsibility for other people's health, Worth wrote.

Healthcare professionals who are unsure of whether or not they have depression are highly encouraged to take part in the free depression screening. If the results suggest the presence of depression, Screening for Mental Health, Inc. advises pursuing treatment. The goal of screening is to have mental health viewed and treated with the same gravity as physical health.

To improve overall mental health, also consider taking part in Screening for Mental Health, Inc.'s 25 Days of Wellness Challenge, which provides 25 tips on how to better manage the state of your mental health. Find details on the program at https://mentalhealthscreening.org/assets/img/NDSD/challenge.pdf.

Lindsey Nolen is a staff writer. Contact: lnolen@advanceweb.com.

 

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