Normalizing Self-Check-Ins For National Depression And Mental Health Screening Month

Medically reviewed by Dr. April Brewer, DBH, LPC
Updated May 15, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide, substance use, or abuse which could be triggering to the reader.
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National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month occurs in October each year and advocates for community mental health screenings and depression education. 

As almost 300 million adults worldwide experience signs and symptoms of depression each year, normalizing self-check-ins can help these individuals address symptoms before they become severe. Major depression and many other mental health conditions are often treatable, and developing a treatment plan can be essential to mental well-being. Additionally, receiving screenings can reduce the stigma around getting checked for a mental illness. 

Keep reading to learn more about the importance of mental health screenings and self-check-ins and how recognizing National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month could help you or a loved one in your mental health journey.

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What is National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month? 

National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month is recognized each year during the month of October. In this same month, other mental health awareness events are also celebrated, including: 

Mental Health Awareness Week and National Mental Health Screening Month were named to bring awareness to the importance of mental health screenings as an intervention for maintaining positive mental well-being.

As evidenced by a 2017 study, there were 30% fewer suicide attempts in clients who were screened for suicide risk and received care than those who were not. Screenings may also reduce the risk of distressing depressive symptoms and help individuals understand when reaching out for help could be valuable.

How can I celebrate?

Each October, you can recognize National Depression And Mental Health Screening Month in various ways.

Learn about depression

Understanding depression can help you and others in your life spot its symptoms and recognize when it might be time to seek help. Depression is a common mental health condition and may happen regardless of your age, gender, or background. 

Some of the most common depression symptoms include: 

  • Irritability 

  • Difficulty concentrating 

  • Changes in sleep patterns, like early morning waking or trouble sleeping

  • Persistent low mood 

  • Lack of interest in things you once enjoyed

  • Restlessness 

  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions 

  • Fatigue and low energy 

  • Thoughts of dying or suicide

Depression may also cause physical symptoms like joint pain, chronic pain, tiredness, weight loss, weight gain, loss of appetite, increased appetite, and high blood pressure. In fact, adults with a depressive disorder may have a 64% higher risk of developing heart disease.

Depression also has a hereditary factor of 40% to 50%, meaning family members may pass down the condition.  

Over 41.7 million US adults received mental health treatment in 2021, including therapy for depression. 32% of those with a mood disorder also experience a co-occurring substance use disorder. As depression can be associated with physical side effects, reaching out for support and ensuring you stay updated on your mental health screenings can be crucial. 

Encourage screening resources in your community 

If you work in healthcare, public relations, or social services, consider encouraging depression and mental health screening resources at your job. For example, you could organize a booth at health fairs with information about mental health screenings, or you could download a free poster or create one with a QR code for individuals to take an electronic depression screening that links them to available resources, including professional help. You can also consider making pamphlets with names of local organizations that offer affordable mental health screenings and additional resources.  

As an individual, you can encourage mental health screenings by educating those you love on the prevalence of mental health conditions in the U.S. If you experience symptoms of depression, you might normalize this experience for others by letting them know how your depression has impacted you and what local resources you’ve taken advantage of.  

Take a free online screening quiz 

There are many free online screening quizzes available. Although these quizzes do not replace a screening test from a doctor or mental health professional, they can be a practical first step for those wondering if it may be worth checking in with their doctor. Mental Health America offers several free screenings for mental health disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, post-partum depression, eating disorders, and youth mental health. 

Once you receive your results, consider bringing them with you to your next appointment with a professional. Your provider may be able to offer available resources and guidance on the next steps to take.

Getty/Daniel Allan

Ways to check in with yourself

Keeping an eye on your own mental health is a good way to ensure that you’re living the quality of life you deserve to live and you’re at your best for yourself and your loved ones. There are a few ways to check in with yourself throughout National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month.

Get a mental health screening 

Before trying other avenues, consider taking a screening test. You might take a screening test online through Mental Health America, or you can make an appointment with your primary care physician for a check-up. Often, physicians can offer quick suicide, anxiety, and depression screenings before or during an appointment. This often involves filling out a form with questions about your symptoms in the last two weeks. 

If your provider verifies that you’re struggling with your mental health, they may offer resources and referrals for a professional diagnosis. Some primary care physicians can prescribe short-term medications or treatment procedures for depression, such as anti-depressants. They might also refer you to a psychiatrist for long-term medication management or a therapist for counseling. 

Even if you are not experiencing severe symptoms daily, it can still be important to tell your provider what you’re feeling. Mild symptoms of depression or anxiety may worsen with time, and having a history of your symptoms can help your provider know if your symptoms are improving or worsening so that they can recommend the best course of action. 

Try a journaling prompt 

Studies have found that journaling can improve mental health and give individuals an outlet to express their emotions in a healthy, productive way. Journaling can also be a form of self-check-in. As you write, you can learn more about how you’re feeling and read it back to yourself afterward. You might notice that writing down your thoughts or feelings makes them seem more tangible and controllable. 

If you’re unsure how to journal, consider a prompt like one of the following: 

  • What were three emotions I felt today, and why did they occur? 

  • What physical sensations am I feeling in my body, and what might they mean? 

  • Am I currently experiencing any identifiable depression symptoms, like irritability, difficulty concentrating, or a persistent sad mood? 

  • What are five people, places, or things that I am grateful for today? 

  • If my current emotion was an animal, what would it look like? 

  • If I could write a poem to describe how I’m feeling, what would it say? 

Try self-inquiry from RO-DBT

A newer form of therapy called radically-open dialectical behavior therapy (RO-DBT) utilizes a journaling process called “self-inquiry” that can be used to consider oneself and one’s symptoms without “finding all the answers.” Instead of validating, soothing, or responding to your concerns, emotions, or thoughts, self-inquiry focuses on asking yourself questions without answers. You can complete the process with the following steps: 

  1. Identify a recent question about a concern, emotion, or symptom. 

  2. Within five minutes, write as many questions as possible, building on the initial question. Do not answer any of them and try to avoid “why” questions. 

  3. As you write, you might notice your questions take another turn. Allow your thoughts to go wherever they may and continue writing. 

  4. If you have any thoughts or desires to reassure yourself, acknowledge them and return to your exercise. 

  5. At the end, read your questions and allow them to sit with you. Sit with the urge to answer them, but do not do so. 

The purpose of self-inquiry is to move closer to the edge of what might be a motive behind your questioning or concerns. The practice aims to help those uncomfortable with uncertainty feel more comfortable not knowing the answers to every question while finding unknown patterns or related topics. 

An example of a self-inquiry exercise on the fear of losing a partner might look like the following: 

  • What about losing my partner scares me? If I were alone, what would I do? What in my past has caused me to feel I cannot be alone? How can I support myself if that were to occur? When did I learn this fear? Who in my life may have contributed to this? Do I make myself feel worse through any of my thought processes? 

After the exercise is completed, you may feel you’ve gained some insight into your emotions or thoughts without having tried to answer your questions or problem-solve everything in one moment. 

Make lists

For some people, making lists can be a helpful practice to understand their mental health further. A few types of lists you can make may include: 

  • A list of symptoms you’ve experienced each day 

  • A list of foods or drinks you consumed, noting what you consumed on the days you were feeling depressed or unwell

  • A list of physical activities that make you feel happy 

  • A pros and cons list for problem-solving 

  • A list of ten people, situations, places, or objects you are grateful for 

You can also come up with your own type of list. Some people use listing exercises to motivate themselves, and studies have also found that writing down goals can increase the chances of keeping them. 

Look through memories to find areas of growth 

After you’ve done a few self-check-in exercises over a few weeks or more, you can look back at old exercises to see how you’ve grown and where you might have regressed or stayed the same. Making mental notes about your improvements can help you keep your mental health on track by allowing you to come up with new strategies for areas you’d still like to grow in.

Getty/AnnaStills
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Getting support for depression with online therapy 

Although there are many self-check-in exercises and free screening resources you can use for National Depression Screening Day, you may find the most personalized and up-to-date advice from a mental health provider like a therapist. Many individuals may shy away from seeing a therapist. They might feel uncomfortable visiting a therapist in person due to stigma or embarrassment, or they may lack the energy or motivation to go to an office. In these instances, online therapy can be a useful alternative. Once you’ve signed up on a platform like BetterHelp, you can decide between phone, video, or live chat sessions with your therapist. After therapy, you may receive journal prompts, worksheets, or resources from your therapist, which you can instantly download or utilize from your device. 

Depression is a highly treatable condition, and online therapy can be a useful resource for individuals experiencing depression. In one study, researchers found that online talk therapy was just as, if not more effective, than face-to-face therapy in treating adult depression. At the conclusion of the study, 57% of participants in the online group could no longer be diagnosed with depression, compared to 42% in the face-to-face group. 

Takeaway

Mental health screenings can be a crucial part of self-care, mental health education, and regular check-ups. If you haven’t received a mental health or depression screening, consider doing so at your next appointment with your doctor, especially if you have symptoms. You can also take a free test online during National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month. Everyone experiences depression in a different way, so it may also help to speak with a licensed therapist who has experience assessing people for various symptoms of depression. 

If you’re living with mental health challenges now and would like support, consider signing up for an online therapy platform for prompt attention. With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a therapist who has experience treating your specific areas of concern. Take the first step this month toward getting support with your mental health and reach out to BetterHelp today.

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