Screening for Depression

The Learning and Wellbeing Team

According to the World Health Organization, depression is the leading cause of poor health and disability worldwide. And since the beginning of the pandemic, rates of mood disorders — both depression and anxiety have increased by as much as 25%. 

Knowing the signs of whether or not you have depression can be difficult. Although many people with depression cry, crying is not a symptom of depression. That’s because there are so many different reasons that someone might cry — feeling overwhelmed, being humiliated, experiencing a setback or a failure, and even sometimes just from laughing too hard.  One of the main reasons why people cry is because something or someone they care about has been threated, hurt or lost.     

Family doctors can also find it hard to detect depression. A study of over 33,653 patient visits found that screening for depression occurred on just 4% of visits. But almost one-half (47%) of visits, where screening did take place, resulted in a new diagnosis of depression. There are several reasons why a family physician may not screen for depression or miss a diagnosis of depression, including. 

  • Not having enough time to screen for mental illness, due to large numbers of patients, especially in after-hours, walk-in clinics.
  • Patients often see doctors for other difficulties, such as pain, injuries, infections and fevers, which means that mental health isn’t considered
  • Patients and doctors will often minimize the importance of sad mood, thinking it will just go. 
  • Patients will prefer to handle it on their own, thinking it is not severe enough to talk to a doctor. 


The screening quiz you are about to take is NOT designed to diagnose clinical depression but to help you determine if you are at risk for a mood disorder, such as depression, and should ask for help. Only a healthcare professional, such as a physician, psychiatrist, or psychologist can diagnose clinical depression.

How screening tests work:

Screening tests, whether for depression, anxiety or ADHD, are not designed to diagnose mental illness. In fact, they cannot. Only a mental health professional, such as a physician, psychiatrist, or psychologist, can make a diagnosis. 

Screening tests are an important tool that can help a physician, psychiatrist, or psychologist reach a decision about whether or not you have a mental disorder or illness.  But, the results of a screening test are not enough. To be diagnosed with a mental illness you must experience (a) some kind of distress or elevated symptoms (e.g., some sadness, inattentiveness, anxiety, etc.), (b) which last for a number of weeks (or more), which (c) cause you some impairment (i.e., these symptoms get in the way of you living your life. It is a complicated and sometimes difficult decision, which is why the results of a screening test are never enough on their own to diagnose a mental illness. 

The test says I have symptoms but no diagnosis. What now?

Many, many more people will experience difficulties with sad or low moods that are not severe enough to be diagnosed as clinical depression. In fact, sad mood that lasts from a few hours to a few days is extremely common.  There are a lot of things you can do if you are experiencing sad moods that can last for a few days. One of the most important strategies for boosting your moods include: 

Tracking good things and accomplishments
Increasing the number of pleasurable activities in your day


1. Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation. Global Health Data Exchange (GHDx). 
3. WHO reference number: WHO/2019-nCoV/Sci_Brief/Mental_health/2022.1
4. Akincigil, A., & Matthews, E. B. (2017). National Rates and Patterns of Depression Screening in Primary Care: Results From 2012 and 2013. Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.), 68(7), 660–666.

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