The UAB Resource Center Employee Assistance Program is joining with thousands of other sites across the United States to offer free, anonymous and confidential screenings for depression and other mental health issues during National Mental Health Screening Day Thursday, Oct. 5.

The center’s mental health professionals can assist with the identification of generalized anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and postpartum depression.

National Mental Health Screening Day focuses on a variety of mental health issues that often present an array of similar symptoms such as feeling moody or sad, an inability to relax or concentrate, changes in sleep patterns, unexplained aches and pains, and/or an inability to enjoy life. The UAB Resource Center is offering the screening to UAB employees and anyone in the community as a public service.

Counselors will be available at the UAB Resource Center, which is located in Suite 330 on the third floor of 21 Office Plaza South at Magnolia Office Park, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for consultation in person or by phone, 934-2281. Directions to the Resource Center are available on the Web site. You may access the anonymous screening test on the UAB Resource Center Web site at year round.

“Screening is the first step toward detecting a mental health issue, and the earlier a disorder is diagnosed or treated, the better quality of life the individual can enjoy,” says Alesia Adams, counselor at the UAB Resource Center. “We have a full staff of licensed, certified professional counselors dedicated to helping UAB employees.”

Josh Klapow, Ph.D., a UAB licensed clinical psychologist, says the screenings are a great opportunity for those who may be having some emotional difficulties to begin traveling the road to a healthier life.
“If people will treat their emotions and psychological problems like physical ones and be comfortable enough to recognize ‘Hey, something’s not right and I need to talk to a professional’ then the screening is a great first step,” Klapow says. “You can talk to someone confidentially about the symptoms you’re having, and someone can tell you if you’re experiencing symptoms that are a normal part of reacting to an event in your life or if you may have an emotional problem.”

Recent results from a Harvard Medical School study reveal that nearly half of all Americans will suffer from a mental illness at some point in their lives, but less than half of them will seek treatment.

Hollis Reeves, a clinical trials administrator in UAB’s Department of Psychiatry and coordinator of a separate screening effort to be held the same day, says a big reason many people don’t seek treatment is the stigma or preconceived notions people have about depression or other mental illnesses.

“There’s no doubt the labels society gives people who have a mental illness play a role,” Reeves says. “Sometimes it’s socially unacceptable to have a problem, and I think that’s what frightens people. They don’t want to be labeled. But the thing is, the problem can be treated, whether it’s with therapy or medication.”

The Department of Psychiatry screenings, which also are open to UAB employees and anyone in the community, will be held in Room G on the second floor of the West Pavilion Conference Center from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 5. If you cannot attend, but still would like a free and confidential screening, call 934-2484. Information on mental health disorders will be available for those who don’t want to participate in the screening but may need information for a family member, loved on or themselves.

Identifying issues
How can you tell if you or a loved one may have a problem with depression or other mental health disorders?

Reeves says losing interest in things you normally enjoy doing, such as going out with friends, spending time with family outside the house, hobbies, reading or traveling could be a sign. Significant changes in sleep, whether sleeping too much or not being able to sleep at all, also could be an indicator.

“The main way to convince yourself to seek help is if it’s affecting your family life, relationships with your spouse or children, your work or your social functioning,” Reeves says.

Klapow says to think of depression and other mental health issues much like you would physical illness. When you’re sick, it’s not your obligation to diagnose and treat yourself, he says. Talk to your primary health-care physician if you’re experiencing sadness, anxiety or anger at levels higher than you normally would.

Klapow adds that if you choose to talk to a mental health-care professional on National Mental Health Screening Day and find you do need to seek further evaluation from a mental health professional, follow through.

“Most of the psychological problems people face are treatable and curable if people go ahead with the treatment,” Klapow says. “They’re serious, but they’re very manageable. But in order to get better, you’ve got to go through with the treatment.”

The best way to get started, says Adams, is by taking advantage of the free screening.  “Those who participate in the screening will have the opportunity to learn more about mental health issues and talk privately with a counselor,” Adams says. “If further evaluation is required, we will provide information and referrals to local treatment providers as a way to help follow through.”