It is estimated as many as 1 in 5 adults in America suffers from depression at some point in their lives. Yet, only half of those affected with major depression seek treatment, due in no small part to the perceived stigma of depression and mental health disorders. In order to take steps to remedy this problem and ensure those who need treatment are getting it, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has recently made recommendations for depression screenings in adults during annual wellness visits.
The recommendations of the USPSTF also include screenings for pregnant and post partum women. It is estimated that 1 in 7 women who give birth experience depression or anxiety at some point during or after their pregnancy. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), less than 20% of women who experience perinatal depression seek treatment for their condition. Women, in general, experience depression twice as often as men according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which is why screening for depression during annual well woman visits is also an important inclusion within the new recommendations.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services had previously allowed for depression screening in Medicare aged adults when the doctor felt it was necessary and "when staff-assisted depression care supports [were] in place." This was based on recommendations from the USPSTF in 2009 calling for increased depression screening in adults when they exhibited signs of depression or other risk factors were present. The most significant change in the new recommendations is that it is expanding depression screenings to all adults, making it a truly preventive measure.
Screening all adults for depression as part of their routine visit will hopefully mitigate the stigma that seems to be associated with depression. The economic burden of depression is estimated to be about $210 billion in the United States and is one of the leading causes of disability in this country. Yet despite the economic toll, debilitating effects and prevalence of depression, many people feel admitting they are suffering from depression or mental illness will have a negative effect on their employment, friendships, and health insurance. In studies of women who did not seek treatment for postpartum depression symptoms, many stated they felt embarrassed and guilty about their feelings. They felt they were strong enough to get over their feelings on their own or that their symptoms weren't severe enough to seek treatment.
Studies have been able to show the perceived stigma that people will not be caring or sympathetic to individuals with mental illness is greater than any actual stigma the individual may experience. Sufferers of depression tend to recognize and internalize the perceived stigma causing them to try and suppress their feelings, which can worsen their overall well-being and prevent them from seeking the treatment they need. As far back as 1999, the US Surgeon General recognized that stigma could be the greatest obstacle in obtaining mental health care for those who need it.
By recommending that Primary Care and OB/GYN doctors screen all adults for depression on an annual basis, the USPSTF has taken great strides to reduce the stigma of depression and mental illness. Latham Medical Group at Community Care Physicians offers behavioral health services. All of our primary care offices can talk to you, evaluate you, and refer you to a specialist if needed. Thanks to the new recommendations, Community Care Physicians and health care providers everywhere can help give many individuals, who would previously have gone undiagnosed, the opportunity to seek treatment, and that's something we can all be happy about!