Healthy Tahoe: Depression screenings as preventative care

Robert Randolph, MPH, RD

Our mood is influenced by many factors, including stress, illness, and even the weather. But what’s the difference between a bad case of the blues and the mental disorder known as depression? Addressing mental health issues is a high priority for our community, as it is frequently identified as a top-three need in the triannual Community Health Needs Assessment.

Depression affects many adults, adolescents and children. In 2017, The National Institute of Health found the prevalence of Major Depressive Episodes in the United States to be 7.1% among adults and 13.3% among adolescents.

Depression screening is an important tool, and it is often the first step to connecting patients to care. People are routinely screened for heart disease, diabetes and cancers, as a way to detect serious illness early and start treatment as needed. Similarly, depression screenings are becoming a normal part of preventive care.

Over the past two years, providers at Barton Community Health Center, Barton Pediatrics, and Barton Primary Care at Stateline Medical Center worked to increase adult and adolescent depression screening and have screened nearly 61% of their patients over the age of 12.

Who should get screened?

All people, age six and older, can be screened for depression. People suffering from depression may experience the following symptoms:

— A persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood

— Sleeping too little, early morning awakening, or sleeping too much

— Reduced appetite and weight loss, or increased appetite and weight gain

— Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed

— Restlessness or irritability

— Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions

— Fatigue or loss of energy

— Thoughts of death or suicide

Barton providers understand the importance of depression screening as a first step for patients and providers to begin to address mental health together as a care team. For patients who screen positive, a provider may work with the patient or patient’s family to discuss treatment options and a plan for recovery and stability, including a referral to a mental health professional or community resource.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Robert Randolph is the operations manager of population health and wellness, behavioral health and telehealth at Barton Health. For a list of area resources and crisis lines, or to learn more visit

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