Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Depressed? New York City Screens for People at Risk

Have you ever thought about that one day you might go to doctors to check if you are at risk for depression as a routine part of primary care, such like a blood pressure test or cholesterol reading? Now, in New York City, doctors have begun to use a simple questionnaire to check if a patient is at risk for depression.

Earlier in 2003, an expert panel convened by President Bush recommended expanding mental health screening, and Congress budgeted $20 million in supporting money for state pilot programs for this year. Also, there were several states including populous states like Florida and Illinois, have already begun to investigate large-scale screening plans. They also investigated the scores of schools and other youth centers throughout the country have used instruments to test youngsters for suicide risk. On the other hand, some politicians and advocates for patients argue that it is over diagnosis and unnecessary treatment for testing people broadly for mental conditions.

In New York, however, no federal money is being used for the program. Also, the test is only being given to the adults. Additionally, instead of using a formal diagnosis, it just has nine questions about mood and behavior to answer. The high score would lead a doctor to recommend more process to clinical screening.

Dr. Lloyd I. Sederer, who heads the mental health division of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said they hope this can become a standard practice and can be widely use for other doctors around the country. He also said that a similar screening test could be developed for adolescents and that if the testing of adults gained acceptance, it would be easier for doctors to use a screening procedure for patients of any age.

Now, Health officials in New York City are working with the Health and Hospitals Corporation to put their screening program into effect. So far, only about a dozen primary-care physicians are using the test, which was developed using research from the RAND Corporation. However, once every primary-care physician in the city hospital system using the test, the program could soon involve millions of patients.

The data shows that 16 percent of Americans, which is 46 million people, are suffering from depression at some point. Also, depression costs the nation $44 billion a year in lost work and disability, even more than heart disease. Psychiatrists and other proponents desire the new program of mental health screening. They argue that millions of people with serious mental disorders never get help, and this program would definitely work very well.

In contrast, opponents say that depression is not always easy for primary-care doctors to recognize, even in people who seek help, and they argue that a screening score of any kind could needlessly confuse or worry patients.

In my opinion, this new program would probably increase a large number of the health care spending; however, people need this. Nowadays, high pressures, hard work, competition in all areas do make more and more people depressed. Depression is becoming a big problem for people all over the world. So people and the society need to care about depression. I think this new program is good, and it should be used widely as a routine part of primary care. Heath is not only physical anymore, mental health is very important for people living in modern times.

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