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Online Mental Health Screenings: A Potential First Step

     

Several organizations provide brief online screenings for depression, anxiety, PTSD and other mental health conditions. For example, screenings are offered by Screening for Mental Health, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, Anxiety and Depression Association of American and Mental Health America. More than one million people took screenings through the Mental Health America site alone in 2016.

These screenings are generally brief, free, anonymous and confidential (see individual websites for specifics). A screening can be an important first step in getting needed care for mental health concerns and can be an easy way for you or someone you care about to get a better understanding of concerning experiences or feelings.

mha-screening-report

The screenings are not a substitute for professional assessment and care. If you have further questions or serious concerns, contact your health care provider or a mental health professional. Some have raised concerns about online screenings, such as confusion between short-term distress and chronic conditions, and the potential misuse of data. However, a recent study of adolescent online self-screening published in the journal “Academic Pediatrics” concluded that: “The availability of brief, free Internet-based psychosocial screens might offer a viable way to identify at-risk youth and provide them with pathways to additional support and/or treatment.”

Mental Health America recently published an analysis of the information from the screenings from 2014 to 2016. About half the people using the online screening, took a screening for depression.

Mental Health American found that among people completing the depression screen, 60 percent screened with moderately severe or severe depression and of those, 70 percent had never been diagnosed by a health care provider. Rates of severe depression were highest among those earning the least. Across all races, screeners earning less than $20,000 were more likely to screen for severe depression than people with higher earnings.

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Just over 30 percent of screeners reported significant thoughts of suicide or self-harm and the number was higher among screeners age 11 to 17. Almost half of youth reported thoughts of suicide or self-harm. Rates of moderate and severe depression were also higher among youth than adults.

When asked about their next steps after taking the screening, more than one-quarter (27 percent) said they would discuss it with a family member, friend or a professional and 18 percent said they would find additional information online. About 17 percent said they would seek treatment, 5 percent planned to monitor their health by taking additional screenings and about a third said they would take no action.

The Mental Health America screening data was presented as part of its annual State of Mental Health in America report.

References

  • Mental Health America. The State of Mental Health in America 2018.
  • Murphy, JM, et al. Adolescent self-Screening for Mental Health Problems; Demonstration of an Internet-Based Approach. Acad Pediatr. 2017. Epub ahead of print.

     

AnxietyDissociative DisordersConduct DisordersADHDBipolar DisordersSleep DisordersDepressionAutismHoarding DisorderOCDPersonality DisordersEating DisordersGambling DisorderSomatic Symptom DisorderSchizophreniaPostpartum depressionAddictionPTSD

 

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