A new depression questionnaire could soon be coming to your doctor’s office. Fill it out while you wait for your doctor and get referred for follow-up in the same visit.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (July 27, 2015) , doctors are recommending that a questionnaire assessing if you’re depressed should be readily available in your doctor’s office. People concerned that they’re depressed could download the questionnaire ahead of time and bring it with them to the doctor.
The U.S. Prevention Services Task Force is urging family doctors to regularly screen patients for depression, using the standardized questionnaire to detect any warning signs. If a patient were to show signs of depression, the patient would be referred to a specialist for diagnosis and treatment.
These questionnaires can be self-administered in a matter of minutes, with doctors reviewing the results after patients fill out the forms, said Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, vice chair of the task force.
“This could be a checklist that patients fill out in the waiting room, or at home prior to the visit,” she said. “The good thing is we have many instruments, measures that have been studied for screening for depression. (U.S. National Library of Medicine, July, 2015)
It makes sense for family doctors to be the front-line detectors for depression. Family doctors are more likely to to be the first medical professionals to come across a person suffering with depression. Only 25 percent of depression sufferers try to get professional help. More than 90 percent will go to a family doctor with symptoms and signs that could be diagnosed as depression. Early detection and getting help fast is what this idea is all about.
The U.S. Prevention Services Task Force has recommended regular depression screening for adults since 2002. Their guidelines currently have doctors ask two specific questions that provide a quick evaluation of a person’s mood. The questions are, “Over the past two weeks, have you felt down, depressed, or hopeless?” and “Over the past two weeks, have you felt little interest or pleasure in doing things?
The new depression questionnaire adds 10 questions focusing on problems a person might experience in the past two weeks, including poor appetite, low energy, sleep problems, and a lack of interest in doing things.
Like any other questionnaire, one drawback is that it’s possible to lie on the form. But people who are depressed generally want some type of relief. The chance of a depressed person lying is slim. Someone who’s depressed usually wants help, so while the severity of symptoms may be underrated, a depressed person is highly unlikely to lie on the form.
It’s also important that doctors don’t just prescribe pills once the questionnaire reveals depression. 70% of anti-depressants are prescribed by doctors who aren’t psychiatrists. Getting a pill helps with some physical conditions, but pills don’t deal with the complex life situation issues a depressed person is trapped inside. It’s important that doctors refer patients who show positive for depression to medical specialists trained in helping depressed people.
So look for the new depression questionnaire in your doctor’s office. If there isn’t one, suggest to the staff that one be placed in the waiting room. You may be helping to save someone’s life.