News 9 MD: Depression screening can make a difference

Published: Apr. 28, 2016 at 1:51 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 29, 2016 at 10:33 AM EDT
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DALLAS (Ivanhoe Newswire/WTVM) - Depression affects about 16 million Americans, and contributes to more than 41,000 suicides each year.  It also costs nearly $210 billion a year in treatment and lost productivity. Now, a federal task force recommends that everybody get screened for depression.  Here's more on how a pioneering study is making a difference.

Medical assistant Kimberly Mendoza gives the VitalSign6 depression screening test as part of a routine physical to patients at a public clinic where she works. She took the test herself and is now being treated for depression.

Mendoza says, "There's one question, do people bother you easily, and of course I put yes.  I strongly agree on that, and that's when the irritability comes in."

VitalSign6 asks patients a series of questions.  A score of ten or more indicates the likelihood of depression, which is followed up with treatment.

Madhukar Trivedi, professor of psychiatry at UT Southwestern explains, "Ultimately the changes with what the primary care provider is doing, their quality of care is improving in the process and that's the breakthrough."

So far, 19,000 patients have taken the test, and 3,000 have been diagnosed with depression.  Researchers said most would never have been diagnosed or treated in the past because of stigmas about seeking help, denial and cost and availability of care.

"Identification and treatment of depression in medical practice not only improves their care and their depression, but it also has positive outcomes on things like diabetes and hypertension," says Dr. Trivedi.

Mendoza says, "It made me change, not being so mean to the world and finding help here as well as finding help and feel relaxed and feel I actually am loved by my family and my husband."

There is good news for those who screen negative, because then the provider and the patient know that their symptoms are not related to depression.

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