Mental health screening doesn’t have to be intimidating or complicated.

October is National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month. Mental health screening may seem intimidating and complicated, but it’s not. There are many resources available, including the services offered through Iowa’s Mental Health and Disability Services (MHDS) Regions, that can help individuals determine whether they are experiencing a brain health condition and where to turn for help. Here are some things to consider if you or someone you know is concerned with their brain health.

Free, online screening tools are quick and easy but should be followed up with an in-person (or virtual) screening with a licensed mental health professional.

There are a number of online mental health tests that can give individuals a quick answer if they are experiencing a brain health condition such as anxiety, depression or even addiction. There are even tests available for parents to take when they feel their children might be experiencing a brain health issue. Mental Health America is a great resource for online mental health screening exams.

With that being said, individuals need to understand that nothing takes the place of getting a physical screening from a licensed mental health professional. Should an individual decide to take an online test, the results may indicate what they are already feeling; however, a true diagnosis should come from a certified professional. This is especially true as only a certified professional — such as a doctor, psychologist, counselor or therapist — best understands the different types of brain health disorders and can prescribe medicines and the appropriate treatments to alleviate symptoms.

Iowa’s MHDS Regions can connect you to trained providers.

Whether brain health conditions are impacting children or adults, help is easily accessible through Iowa’s MHDS Regions. We work directly with licensed mental health providers who are not only certified to make brain health assessments, but who are also able to connect individuals to services and supports that are needed and located close to home. These brain health providers also work with hospitals, law enforcement and schools, so they can direct individuals who need support to these services.

Most mental health screenings are simple.

Mental health screenings use a combination of communication, interviews and standardized tools to properly identify the brain health issues affecting an individual and to figure out the best level of care. The providers our regions work with are well-versed in all brain health struggles and know how to make individuals feel comfortable and at ease throughout the screening process. While assessments may require a physical examination or certain labs, much of the assessment is a simple conversation with the practitioner, who asks you a mix of questions, either verbally or via a written form, about your background and brain health. These questions are meant to evaluate an individual’s emotional, behavioral, cognitive and physical information as part of a holistic approach to care. Some standard questions they might ask that individuals can be prepared to answer include:

  • What are your symptoms?
  • How long have you had the symptoms?
  • How long do your symptoms typically last?
  • Is there an activity that seems to exacerbate the symptoms?
  • What types of things trouble you the most? Specific thoughts, behaviors, actions?
  • What types of medication are you currently taking?
  • Is there a history of brain health issues in your family?

Getting tested at the earliest onset of symptoms is crucial.

The earlier a brain health issue is detected, the quicker a path to healing can begin. If left undiagnosed and untreated, brain health disorders can evolve into deeper issues such as major depression, addiction and even thoughts of suicide and death. If an individual is afflicted with thoughts of death or suicide, immediate action is critical. Individuals can receive immediate crisis services from Your Life Iowa by calling 855-581-8111 or texting 855-895-8398 or by calling 911.

Get started on the path to better brain health today! Connect with your local Iowa MHDS Region to schedule a screening.