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With rates of depression rising in U.S., mental health experts say online screenings are an important tool

More Americans are using online screening tests to gauge whether depression is playing a role in their health, and mental health experts say that’s a good thing.

Just as people might screen for diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure, a depression screening provides a quick way to spot the first signs of what might be a serious mental health issue.

Marcie Timmerman, executive director of Mental Health America of Kentucky, said depression affects many Kentuckians.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in five Kentucky adults reports being told by a health provider that he or she has a form of depression. (Photo by Adobe Stock, via PNS)

“We find that we have higher rates of depression coinciding with higher rates of poverty,” she said. “That’s why our online screenings are so important to us, because it reaches folks that may not be able to get to a treatment provider of any kind.”

According to a 2017 Kentucky Health Issues survey, half of Kentucky adults say they know someone who struggles with depression. Research has shown that in the past several years, more Kentuckians report experiencing “frequent mental distress” – up from 13.8% of adults in 2016 to more than 16% in 2018.

Timmerman said it’s important to support friends and family who choose to get help for their depression.

“Whether that’s by self-help things that they’re doing or whether that’s going to a therapist, or whether that’s going to a faith leader, who then eventually then may have to send them somewhere else,” she said, “really just kind of combating the stigma of having it.”

Depression is affecting young people in the Commonwealth at higher rates, too. According to federal data, 29% of Kentucky high school students report feeling sad or hopeless almost every day, for two or more weeks in a row.

Timmerman said she sees online screenings as a step toward better understanding mental illness.

“Folks are recognizing that it’s not a moral or character issue anymore, that it really is a legit chemical imbalance that can be treated,” she said. “And recovery happens in many different ways.”

The anonymous, evidence-based screenings are online at mhaMidSouth.org.

More information is online at mhaky.org.

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