What is Mental Health Screening?

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Mental health screening is a way of identifying whether you may be suffering from a mental health problem such as depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder amongst others. Many people who are suffering from a mental health problem are unaware that they are, or unable to admit to themselves or to others that they could be suffering from a mental health problem.

It can be difficult to spot mental health problems as sadness, mood swings as well as some stress and anxiety is perfectly normal, it is the degree to which these things affect us and our daily lives that would indicate if there was something more serious going on. A mental health problem can also be masked by other conditions such as chronic illness, disability or even drug and alcohol abuse. Screening tools can help health professionals identify if there is an underlying mental health problem.

Depression and anxiety related mental health problems are extremely common and untreated depression can have tragic results. However it is neither practical nor viable to screen every member of the population. NICE guidelines recommend that people who have a past history of depression or other mental health problems or who have a significant physical illness or disability or who are considered high risk in any other way should be screened for mental health problems.

There are a number of different mental health screening tools at the disposal of health professionals and these include the following:

•    Patient Health Questionnaire – used to diagnose depression and the severity of the depression
•    Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale – used to assess anxiety and depression
•    Beck Depression Inventory – used to assess the severity of depression
•    Children’s Depression Inventory – for children over 7
•    Reynolds’ Child Depression Scale – also for children over 7
•    The Centre for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale – for adolescents
•    Reynolds’ Adolescent Depression Scale – also for adolescents
•    The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale – to assess postnatal depression
•    The Geriatric Depression Scale – for the elderly
•    Cornell Scale for Depression in Dementia – to assess depression in people suffering from dementia

You can also access many online screening tools that you can use confidentially in order to identify if you could be suffering from a mental health problem. However, it should be noted that these tests do not in any way confirm the presence of a mental health problem, no test can do that. All that a mental health screening test can do is highlight if a mental health problem is indicated.

Only a qualified professional will be able to officially diagnose a mental health problem. If you are in any doubt as to whether you could be suffering from an anxiety related mental health problem, depression, or something more serious then speak to your doctor so that you can get expert advice and appropriate help and treatment. This will give you the best chance of recovery. Mental health problems are treatable and most people do go on to make a full and complete recovery provided they get the help they need.

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