Depressed? Today is National Depression Screening Day

Munch Sick Child lithograph

Did you know that this is National Depression Screening Day? No? Neither did I, until I checked my Inbox this morning and found the following story. I believe it’s important enough to reprint in full.


Economic Downturn

Taking Toll

on Americans’ Mental Health

New National Survey Finds Jobless Individuals Four Times as Likely to Report Serious Problems

WASHINGTON, Oct. 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — A new national survey shows the economic downturn is taking a toll on the mental health of Americans. Individuals who are unemployed are four times as likely as those with jobs to report symptoms consistent with severe mental illness.

Munch Melancholy1891Americans who experienced involuntary changes in their employment status, such as pay cuts or reduced hours, also are twice as likely to have these symptoms, even though they are employed full time.

The survey was conducted for Mental Health America and the National Alliance on Mental Illness in collaboration with the Depression is Real Coalition. The results come from telephone interviews of 1,002 adults nationwide from September 17-20.

The release of the findings coincides with Mental Illness Awareness Week (from October 4 to 10) and National Depression Screening Day, which takes place this Thursday, October 8.

“This survey clearly shows that economic difficulties are placing the public’s mental health at serious risk, and we need affirmative action to address these medical problems,” said David L. Shern, Ph.D., president and CEO of Mental Health America. “Individuals confronting these problems should seek help for their problems – talk to their doctor, trusted friend or advisor or mental health professional.”

“Unemployment today stands at almost 10 percent. Nationwide, we face a mental health crisis as well as an economic crisis,” said Michael J. Fitzpatrick, M.S.W., executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “There is no shame in seeking help to overcome unemployment or a medical illness. For the sake of all our loved ones, it’s important to learn to recognize symptoms of depression and other mental illnesses. Screening helps. Talk with a doctor about any concerns.”

Other Key Findings Of The Survey:

         Thirteen percent of unemployed individuals report that they have thought of harming themselves which is four times more than reported by persons with full time work.

         People who are unemployed are approximately six times as likely to have difficulty meeting household expenses – 22 percent report great difficulty paying their utilities and almost half have significant difficulty in obtaining healthcare further compounding their situation.

         People who are unemployed are also twice as likely to report concern with their mental health or use of alcohol or drugs within the last six months than individuals working full time.

         Of those who have not spoken to a health professional about these concerns, 42 percent cited cost or lack of insurance coverage as the main reason.

         Nearly 20 percent of the sample reported that they had experienced a forced change (e.g. pay cuts, reduced hours) in their employment during the last year.

         Although most of these individuals are employed, individuals with a forced change in employment are twice as likely to report symptoms consistent with severe mental illness than would be expected. They are also five times more likely to report feeling hopeless most or all of the time than individuals who hadn’t experienced a forced change.

Although I’ve never faced the employment difficulties described in this article, I’m all too familiar with severe clinical depression. My last episode miraculously evaporated when I published my first novel, Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders, in 2006, and it hasn’t returned to this day. But I’ve had the help of an excellent psychologist and a psychiatrist skilled in the subtleties of psychopharmacology. Both were covered by the Empire Plan, an insurance program available to New York State employees and retirees. Without this coverage and these treatment options, I might literally have been dead by now.

Depression is a serious, potentially life-threatening illness, and people can’t just “snap out of it.” While women are more at risk, they’re also typically more able to recognize the problem and seek treatment. Men, on the other hand, may exhibit very different symptoms, such as fatigue, irritability and anger, that they don’t recognize as depression at all.

Fortunately, treatment can be very effective, and there are many resources available even for the uninsured. Going to the National Alliance on Mental Illness website is a good start.

The illustrations for this post are both works by the Norwegian artist Edward Munch, best known for his iconic painting “The Scream.” He’s one of my favorite artists, in part because of my Norwegian heritage. The tendency to depression can be strong among us Nordic types. Personally, as noted above, I’m a strong believer in psychopharmacology. That’s why the cats in ELDERCIDE are named Zoloft and Lunesta!

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