Screening for depression is a low-cost, high-impact intervention that should be a regular part of primary care medicine, reports the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).
Depression is common and potentially disabling. Yet despite decades of research and publicity about the problem, depression often goes unnoticed. Unnecessary suffering can be prevented if the task force recommendations are followed:
- They encourage primary care practices to have systems to detect depression: Screening can be done with a simple questionnaire.
- If a person is diagnosed with depression, treatment can be offered: psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two.
- After initiating treatment, provide follow up: A phone call to the person and/or return visits to the primary care provider.
Screening can be as simple as a two-item questionnaire. The Patient Health Questionnaire-2 (PHQ-2) asks,
Over a 2-week period, have you been bothered by (1) little interest or pleasure in doing things; or (2) feeling down, depressed or hopeless?
Answering yes to either item means the problem should be evaluated more fully. The primary care provider may make a referral to a mental health provider, but there is enormous value when initial evaluation and treatment can begin in the primary care setting, reports Harvard Medical News.
Read full recommendations here.