Free Depression Tests Offered

Thousands of schools, colleges and businesses nationwide will take part in Thursday's ninth annual National Depression Screening Day to give Americans a better understanding of mental health.

The National Mental Illness Screening Project administers the program, which offers participants a questionnaire.

The survey consists of 27 questions such as, "Do you feel hopeless? Have trouble concentrating? Feel sad? Contemplate suicide?" Answers are given on a scale of zero to 2.

Participants will tally up their points themselves after being told that scores of 20 or higher may indicate depression. The questionnaire will be accompanied by names and telephone numbers to call for support.

"You know, plems in the marriage, in the workplace are a factor, but with clinical depression, most medical people now feel it's a change in biochemistry," Suzanne Frank, a clinician taking part in the program, told CBS News.

However, a high number doesn't automatically equal depression, said school psychologist Donna Moilanen, who expects about 10 percent of students will score in that range.

"It means there's cause for concern and we need to sit down and get that student some help," she said.

While societal stigma against depression is easing among adults, it remains taboo among teen-agers, said Carol Glod, who studies teen-age depression at McLean Hospital in Belmont and teaches the subject at Northeastern University.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds nationally.

"Teen-agers and parents of teen-agers are very concerned about depression, but it's still a bad word," she said. "No kid wants to say they're depressed and no parent wants to say 'My child has an illness that's psychiatric.'"

The average age of depression onset has been dropping over the years, and now hovers around 30, down from 40 several decades ago. An estimated 17 to 20 million Americans suffer from depression each year.

Between 500,000 and 800,000 American teen-agers will experience clinical depression each year, said Dr. Douglas Jacobs, who founded National Depression Screening Day.

Depression is a difficult diagnosis to make among teen-agers because the symptoms irritability, low self-esteem and poor performance "get confused with the angst of being a teen-ager," he said.

To locate one of the 3,000 screening sites near you, call 1-(800) 573-4433.