Free Mental Health Screenings Being Offered

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- With a national discussion going on in the United States regarding a need for reform in how we talk about, identify, and treat mental illnesses, Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines is offering free educational and screening programs for the community.

"There's still that stigma of, if you have a mental illness, you are weak," said Dr. Sasha Kosravi, medical director of Mercy Behavioral Health. "That it is a state of mind that you can overcome without any help. And that is why people don't seek help sometimes, is because, they feel like it's something that they should be able to conquer or battle on their own, when in fact, it is a biological illness."

The National Alliance on Mental Illness says one-in-four adults in the U.S. experience mental illness in a given year. Thursday is National Depression Screening Day, and local clinics in all 50 states are volunteering their time to offer free mental health screenings for people who may suffer from depression or other mental health issues.

In Des Moines, Mercy Medical Center says a free depression screening is an opportunity to learn more about anxiety and mood disorders, complete a brief screening questionnaire, and speak one-on-one with a mental health professional. In addition, Kosravi says Mercy is working to expand its services to better assist those in the community suffering from mental illness. Since 2008, all Mercy facilities have screened all women giving birth for postpartum depression before they leave the hospital. And kids enrolled in all of Des Moines' public schools receive two mental health screenings per year.

Kosravi says state funding for mental illness is low, but since everyone is asking for more funding in today's economy, local healthcare professionals are looking at ways they can use the funding they already have to improve the system.

"Integrating psychiatry into the primary care is going to be a key component to being able to reach out further into the population and identify those folks that have a stigma going to a psychiatrist but have no problem going to their family doc or their pediatricians," he said.

For anyone interested in a free screening, or for more information, Mercy asks you to call its Behavioral Help Center at 515-271-6111.



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