New Depression Screening Recommendations Gain Political Traction

How do you know when you’re depressed or having a mental health experience? Do you feel low, lethargic, disconnected, and uninspired? Do you indulge in unhealthy eating and personal care habits? What are the definite signs that indicate to you when you need extra support or a change of pace?

Many people suffer from depression but don’t know they’re depressed. Additionally, friends and family around them may not be able to see the signs as well. These two related situations can perpetuate prolonged internal distress, interpersonal conflict, and mental health stigma. In short, it’s extremely difficult to systematically address depression as a public health issue when it’s so often hidden from view.

Statistics highlight just how significant this problem is. Almost 25% of teens have a major depression experience, yet as many as 2 out of 3 don’t receive the care they need. Among adults, the same issues persist. 37% of Americans with major depression don’t receive any type of treatment. Mental health stigma is almost certainly a primary driver of these low treatment rates.

Two related public initiatives are currently attempting to address this ongoing issue. In California, state legislators are weighing Assembly Bill 2193 — a bill that would mandate compulsory mental health screening for pregnant women and new mothers. And The American Academy of Pediatrics recently recommended that primary care doctors screen all teens for depression at least once a year.

Currently lacking in both bills is language that would ensure that patients are informed of their right to decline mental health screening if they so choose. Nevertheless there is a significant consensus that mental health treatment and screenings save money overall. It remains to be seen whether these proposed changes will generate the desired results and financial savings. What is clear, however, is that there is a relatively inexpensive, yet effective option for improving mental health outcomes.

Peer Support is an Essential Service

Peer support services are are a cost-effective, proven method for improving mental health outcomes. Peer support specialists empower those with mental health experiences to take charge of their own health, and develop personal wellness plans.

As an organization, PEERS affirms that peer support services should be included as an integral part of any attempt to revamp California’s mental health system. Mental health consumers must be included in all conversations and their rights, opinions, and experiences must be respected and incorporated into the decision-making process.

By Patrick Glass