National Depression Screening Day Oct. 9

Your youngest son comes into your room at 6 a.m. to let you know that his big sister is having cookies and soda for breakfast. Meanwhile, your 7-year-old has been up all night with a stomach bug. And thus your day begins.

It is understandable, and even normal, for most parents to feel stressed and overwhelmed some of the time. But if you have been feeling sad or empty; lost pleasure in ordinary activities; have unexplained aches or pains—and have been experiencing these symptoms for more than two weeks—then you may have clinical depression.

To help those parents who may be suffering, National Depression Screening Day will break the silence about parental depression and introduce the first national awareness campaign on the impact of depression on families and children.

The campaign, a collaborative effort of NDSD’s parent organization, Screening for Mental Health (SMH), and Children’s Hospital Boston, encourages depressed parents to talk about their illness with their children. A recent study by Children’s Hospital has shown that breaking the silence and discussing parental depression with one’s children strengthens the family unit and its individual members.

In addition to the parenting campaign, NDSD will offer free, anonymous screenings for depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder at 2,000 public sites, 500 colleges, and 5,000 primary care offices across the country on Oct. 9. Anyone is welcome to attend in order to learn more about these treatable disorders and find out how to get help.

To find a site near you, call 1-800-520-NDSD (6373) (starting 9/10/03) or visit the SMH Website at

Clinical depression affects more than 19 million Americans each year, most commonly affecting those in their prime parenting years, between the ages of 30-44. Parenting can be challenging in good health, but even more challenging when a parent or parents are depressed.

“Depression’s impact on families is important and timely,” says Douglas G. Jacobs, MD, executive director of SMH and an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “So many families have experienced sustained and heightened anxiety since 9/11 due to job loss, personal losses and the challenges of family life in the military through wartime. We hope National Depression Screening Day can help parents and their children understand that depression and related disorders are treatable, and seeking help will contribute to leading healthy and productive lives.”

Some tips for parents being treated for a mental disorder.

n Pay attention to your parenting and make sure your illness doesn’t disrupt your children’s lives.

n Make sure your children continue to go to school.

n Encourage your children’s participation in outside activities (community, sports and religious activities).

n Encourage their relationships with peers and important adults in their lives.

n Make sure your children understand that it is not their fault that their parent or parents are ill and that they are receiving treatment to get better.

n Be prepared to talk more than once. It often takes time for families and children to process and understand this sensitive subject.

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