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Free depression screenings raise mental health awareness

Gundersen Health System, YMCA team up for National Depression Screening Day

Free depression screenings raise mental health awareness

LA CROSSE, Wis. - It's something that affects 15 million Americans in any given year, but is still often pushed to the sidelines. On Tuesday, Gundersen Health System and the Dahl family YMCA brought depression to the forefront with free screenings for adults.

The director of integrated care at Gundersen, Dr. Catherine Schuman, said this is the 25th year they've had a day providing free screenings. This year's theme for National Depression Screening Day.

Filling out one simple page can be the first step in saving a life.

"So many people are living with depression," Schuman said.

Some of the statistics surrounding depression and suicide are startling.

"Forty thousand people kill themselves every year," Schumann said. "(Suicide) is the second-leading cause of death in children 11-18 … and 70 percent who do commit suicide have left a trail of clues that this is what they are about to do."

That's why health officials say thoughts of mental health shouldn't just live in our heads, but should be talked about openly.

"It's very common and not everybody knows how to see the signs of it. Unfortunately, unlike like physical illnesses like flu there is still stigma that remains," mental health director at the YMCA, Sarah Johnson, said.

The free depression screenings at the Y invited people in to learn the warning signs.

"A big red flag for depression are thoughts of hopelessness, thoughts about dying," Johnson said.

"This is not a diagnosis, we're not doing therapy or anything like that, It's just like a free blood pressure screening or other things like that. It's just a chance for somebody to take a look at how they're doing."

"It can assure people that their symptoms are part of normal life, or their symptoms because they've been living with them so long, they think they're normal, but their symptoms are at significant clinical levels and they could receive support and care," Schuman said.

After the screening, there were resources for visitors to figure out where to go next.

This event, and simple piece of paper, is also one step in breaking the stigma surrounding mental health.

"Somewhere along the line we decide that mental health was this thing that was other," Schuman said. "There is no health without good mental health."

"Mental health is just as important as physical health," Johnson said. "In fact, I would argue it's the same thing."

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