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Take Care of Your Mental Health: Screening for Depression

We all know physical health is important—that you should eat well, exercise, and get regular checkups to screen for heart disease, diabetes and the like. And when your physical health fails, we all agree it’s important to seek the right treatment and take time to recover.

But what about mental health? The organization Screening for Mental Health (SMH) is on a mission to have mental health viewed and treated with the same gravity as physical health. That’s why, for more than two decades, the organization has deemed the first Thursday of October – Oct. 5 this year – National Depression Screening Day.

Around the country hospitals, clinics, colleges and community groups will be conducting free, anonymous screening events for depression, generalized anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. The goal of these events is to help raise awareness about the importance of mental health, and to refer people to treatment resources.

The Role of Mental Wellness Among Seniors

Here at Bethesda Senior Living Communities, we strive to serve our residents’ minds, bodies and spirits, so we recognize the important role of mental health. When a resident moves into one of our communities, one of the first things we do is create a personalized care plan, which we update every year.

As part of this plan, our Health Directors work with the resident (and their families) to evaluate the person’s physical and mental well-being, create a schedule of any medications they may need assistance with, and flag any concerns. Depression in particular is common among the elderly, so our team of caregivers pays special attention to signs of depression—not only during the initial health screening but every day.

In all of our communities, our caregivers get to know our residents on a personal basis. It’s not uncommon for a dining services director to discover something amiss. Perhaps a resident has missed a meal or didn’t eat much. In those cases, we’ll make sure to check in on the resident to make sure it’s not a sign of something deeper. (Usually, everything is fine, but it’s our job to check.)

Signs of Concern? Take the Free Screening

According to SMH and other mental health organizations, there are a number of common signs to watch for. If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the following, be sure to seek help:

  • Changes in sleep and appetite
  • Poor concentration
  • Loss of energy
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Low self-esteem
  • Hopelessness or guilt
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide

Consider making an appointment with your primary care physician, who will be able to refer you to the proper health care provider (and check for any underlying physical causes of depression).

Regardless of how you feel, you may also want to take the free and anonymous screening online at SMH. If the screening unpacks any warning signs, the organization has a number of referral sources to help, including the National Alliance on Mental Health.