Mental health screenings at primary care visits help identify issues

Oct. 09, 2019

In 1990, Congress established the first full week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week to help educate people and fight the stigma surrounding mental health issues. While “mental health” encompasses a range of conditions, depression is one of the most common in the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 1 out of 6 adults will have depression at some time in their life. It affects young people, too. As many as 2 out of 100 young children and 8 out of 100 teens have serious depression.

Kaiser Permanente’s proactive support

We’re committed to our members’ total health — mind, body, and spirit — and incorporate mental health screenings into primary care visits. This helps our teams identify, assess, and treat mental health issues like depression and quickly connect members with resources. Licensed mental health clinicians are part of our primary care teams so members can get in-the-moment attention during a primary care visit.

Kaiser Permanente also offers an online self-assessment tool that members and non-members can use at any time to help identify signs of depression. The assessment doesn’t provide a diagnosis, but instead guides people to care and resources depending on their answers. It is anonymous and designed for adults 18 years and older. The assessment does not require signing in to your Kaiser Permanente member profile, and results are not shared with any Kaiser Permanente health provider or saved in your medical record.

Depression is different for each person

Some people with depression experience physical and mental symptoms at the same time. Their symptoms may last a few weeks, years, or a lifetime. Some people have minor depression that goes away on its own, while others can have depression so severe they need to be hospitalized. Depression can come on slowly or be triggered suddenly by a major loss or trauma.

Common symptoms include:

  • Feeling down, blue, hopeless, sad, irritable, or emotionally numb
  • Finding no pleasure in activities you usually enjoy
  • Feeling worthless (“I’m nothing but a failure”) or having hopeless thoughts (“I’ll never feel better”)
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Feeling tired or having no energy
  • Changes in sleep patterns (trouble falling asleep, waking in the night, sleeping more than usual)
  • Changes in eating or appetite
  • More physical aches and pains than usual
  • Trouble doing normal activities at work or at home
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Know when to call your doctor

People who experience symptoms for 2 or more weeks that also get in the way of normal work or home activities should call their primary care doctor. The symptoms of grief can mimic depression. Generally, a person should seek help if grieving disrupts normal activities for several months. Most of the time, depression can be treated by your primary care team. If you’re unsure whether to get help, talk with your doctor.

If you think you or someone you know is having a medical or psychiatric emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital.

For more information and resources about depression, visit our depression overview webpage.

All carrier plans offered and underwritten by Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington or Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington Options, Inc. Self-funded health benefits are insured by an employer, union, or Plan sponsor. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington, Inc., provide certain administrative services for the self-funded Plan and are not an insurer of the Plan or financially liable for health care benefits under the Plan.

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