Should You Be Screened For Depression?

Should You Be Screened For Depression?

The U.S. Preventive Task Force says there is new evidence to support adults over the age of 18 be screened for depression as part of routine healthcare, especially pregnant and postpartum women Dr. Jennifer Gentile, medical director of behavioral health for Amwell, zeroes in on the new guidelines and how telehealth services like Amwell play a role in addressing this national mental health concern.

What are your thoughts on the new depression screening guidelines presented by the U.S. Preventive Task Force?
Every year, 15 million people in the United States have depression. That’s more than 7% of the population. This panel of experts has provided a green light for clinicians to broach the topic of depression with their patients, and that in itself is a huge step in the right direction.

What is a depression screening?
A depression screening is a simple, 10-question survey that asks patients to check descriptions that best describe their feelings.  The grading system gives us an idea of the patient’s emotional stability at that time.  We look for depressive symptoms such as low mood, low energy, hopelessness, helplessness or suicidality and take into account how long the patient has experience those symptoms.

Can a depression screening be conducted via telehealth?
Telehealth is very well suited for a depression screening, among other mental health care concerns. Before logging on to see a therapist on Amwell, you can think about your own mental health history and think about what you want to share with your therapist. This may include: periods of sadness in your life, what treatment goals you would like to accomplish through your therapy experience. On a practical level, make sure you are in a private area where you can talk about things and get yourself settled to have a 45 minute conversation on what you’d like to talk about.

These recommendations indicate that women, in particular, should be screened during their pregnancy and after birth. Why is that?
We know that 20% of all women will have some sort of depressive episode during their lifetime, and new research has shown that as 1 in 7 women suffer from postpartum depression, even though it far too often is dismissed as “the blues”.  Some women enter pregnancy with some signs of depression, without even talking with a healthcare provider about it.  A woman’s life changes dramatically when she has a child; pregnancy is a joyous moment, but it also brings along a high level of stress. We know if we can intervene early with treatment, overall attachment and bonding improves between mother and child, ultimately laying the foundation for the child’s healthy and social development.

The conversation about increasing mental health care in the United States is prevalent. Are you concerned that these guidelines might be recommending services the mental health care infrastructure in the United States might to be able to deliver?
We have to have the ability to deliver those services. This is where telehealth services, like Amwell, come into play.  We recognize that just saying “yes” to see a therapist is a huge step for people, but seeing a psychologist via telehealth can make that decision easier.  Just having fewer barriers makes it a lot easier for someone to seek care. Seeing a psychologist via telehealth allows you to have your therapy session in private, at the location of your choosing, and at the time of your choosing. As a provider, being able to see the patient in their own environment can be helpful in making treatment recommendations and truly understanding what's going on.  Depression is an illness as real and debilitating as a broken leg or an infection. It requires treatment, and we know when people are treated sooner, they get better quickly.

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