Free depression screenings Thursday

Big Spring State Hospital and West Texas Centers will offer free and confidential depression screenings, Thursday, Oct. 11, on National Depression Screening Day.Big Spring State Hospital and West Texas Centers began offering the screenings to the Howard County community in 2000. Scenic Mountain Medical Center began their partnership in 2007 with the two agencies to provide screenings at its facility.The screenings will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the fourth floor at SMMC, 1601 W. 11th Place.Screenings are free and are open to people of any age, said West Texas Centers CEO Shelley Smith, LMSW. Upon arrival, attendees are provided with a short questionnaire and will visit with a mental health professional to review the answers.“These are questions provided by the National Depression Screening Day organization,” Smith said. “The answers to this set of questions give us good insight and a good starting-off point for dialogue.”The clinicians and attendees review the responses together, which gives the mental health experts a good idea if follow-up care for depression is necessary or if the person is only experiencing a sad period in his or her life.“The screening tool has really been very helpful in determining whether the attendees need to be seen for follow-up care either as an outpatient or an inpatient,” said Robin Riha, Big Spring State Hospital director of social work services. “We have seen people at our depression screenings who have lived with depression for years and needed professional help for their illness. They have been so thankful for these screenings.”Mental health professionals do not diagnose depression, but following the screening and interview, they may suggest avenues in which participants can pursue.Depression affects more than 15 million Americans each year, according to the National Mental Health Association. Clinical depression is treatable through a variety of methods, including medications and psychotherapy or a combination of the two. Other people may be living with periods of sadness or have experienced a difficult time and are feeling that they will never be happy again.“Many of the people we see every year are those who are just not sure if they are clinically depressed or if they just need to work through a particular issue that they may be experiencing,” Smith said.Each attendee is given educational literature and the names and phone numbers of community resources.West Texas Centers also operates a 24-hour mental health crisis hotline, 1-800-375-4357.The line is available for those who are in a crisis or need mental health services, Smith said.For more information on National Depression Screening Day, call Valerie Avery at (432) 816-9257.