Philly joins national daylong effort to screen for depression

Workers in matching blue tshirts man a table in Philadelphia

Workers from Philadelphia's Department of Behavioral Health man a depression screening station outside La Colombe at Sixth and Market streets. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

An estimated 85,000 people in Philadelphia live with depression. There may be more, so the city offered free screenings Thursday as part of National Depression Screening Day.

Left untreated, depression can cause serious health problems. But after screening, people are more likely to seek help.

Andrea October, with the city’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services, said the goal is to help people before their symptoms become severe.

“Some people are really excited that we’re here. People have cheered us on,” she said. “People have been pleasantly surprised that we’re showing such visibility to mental health because unfortunately there’s still a lot of stigma out there.”

At a special receiving area for veterans, outreach workers were giving away gun locks. Last year, they ran out quickly.

Ed Davalos, a visitor from San Diego, took the survey, and he said he was surprised to see the screenings happen out in the open.

“Nobody wants to really talk about what they’re going through, or stress, or anxiety — or what it even means to some people,” he said.

Sean Brinda, who works with the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services, said when he needed treatment options 25 years ago for his addiction, things were starkly different.

“When I went into recovery, it was all by myself, in a phone book trying to find some support,” he said. “And the reason I went to a phone book is because I didn’t know where to go.”

October says the screening offers preliminary information — but a diagnosis requires a trip to a professional. Anyone insured through Medicaid can be connected to a provider at the screening. If not, screeners can help people find help covered by their insurance.

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