- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Free screening for depression is available today across the nation as part of National Mental Illness Awareness Week.

The program is being conducted by Screening for Mental Health Inc., a Boston-based nonprofit organization, in cooperation with 2,500 organizations across the country.

The program began in 1991 with one Boston area hospital. Last year, almost 145,000 people attended the screening events nationwide.

In the District, screenings will be offered at four locations.

Patients will be examined for the four most common mental illnesses: depression, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. If any of these disorders are diagnosed, the patient will be referred to a doctor.

Many people take the symptoms for granted, said Katherine L. Cruise, communication manager for the screening program, but mental illness is easier to treat if diagnosed early.

Through the screening, Mrs. Cruise said, “people will be able to realize it was a depression, and early diagnosis has a positive outcome.”

It is important to fight the stigma sometimes associated with psychological disorders, she said.

“You don’t have to feel ashamed to have a mental illness,” Mrs. Cruise said.

The September 11 terrorist attacks lead to an increase of anxiety and other mental stress, Mrs. Cruise said. It was in the wake of the attacks that Screening for Mental Health expanded its focus of depression to include bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The project has a Web site (www.mentalhealthscreening.org) where the public can locate screenings in their area, Mrs. Cruise said. The four D.C. screening sites are:

• George Washington University Community Counseling Service Centers, 2134 G St. NW, (202) 994-8645.

• Howard University Hospital, Department of Psychiatry, 2041 Georgia Ave. NW, (202) 865-6611.

• Pastoral Care and Counseling Center, Mount Airy Baptist Church, 1100 N. Capitol St. NW, (202) 842-3698.

• Washington Hospital Center, Outpatient Behavioral Health Services, 216 Michigan Ave. NE, 2nd floor (202) 877-6430.

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