National Depression Screening Day: Combating Stigma to Ensure Mental Health Care for All

National Depression Screening Day: Combating Stigma to Ensure Mental Health Care for All

Today is National Depression Screening Day, and—as an institution dedicated to advancing mental health care—we want to encourage everyone to seek help if they think they need it. This could be the first step on a journey to well-being.

“National Depression Screening Day began as an effort to reach individuals across the nation with important mental health education and connect them with support services. Screening for Mental Health (SMH) pioneered National Depression Screening Day as the first, voluntary, mental health screening initiative in 1990,” explains Screening Mental Health, the organization that established the national effort.

Everyone experiences depression differently, but some of the more common and noticeable symptoms of depression include:

  • Lack of interest in activities that were once pleasurable
  • Apathy and low energy levels
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Loneliness or withdrawing from friends and family
  • Not being able to sleep or sleeping all the time
  • Suicidal thoughts and feelings

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an estimated 16.2 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in 2016, while only half of the 16.2 million adults with depression were treated. “Because of the existing stigma, many individuals with depression do not admit that they have this problem, and do not seek professional help,” said Dr. George Gharibian, Professor for Alliant’s California School of Professional Psychology’s Clinical Psychology program in Los Angeles.

“Stigma is a barrier to mental health care in many cultures, including in the U.S., which tends to be an individualistic culture. When people experience the symptoms of depression, when they don’t have energy or can’t get out of bed to go to work, they are afraid that our culture will see this as a sign that someone with depression can’t succeed and be a thriving member of society. They feel that they are expected to be successful, happy, and independent; and if the culture is pushing them to be something that they are not, it adds another factor to the reason they have for not going to therapy or accepting their problem,” Gharibian said.

Simply put: Stigma is one of the greatest obstacles on the journey to mental health care, and we have a collective responsibility to combat it. Highlighting events like National Depression Screening Day will help take us one step closer to ensuring that all those who need help can get it.

For those wanting more information or seeking help, please contact the National Alliance on Mental Health HelpLine at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264).