As our population ages, health and behavioral health care needs will rise. Many families will respond to these needs by acting as caregivers.

During this October’s National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month, we should be mindful of the behavioral health needs of caregivers.

A 2015 study conducted at the Hunter Holmes McGuire Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia and at the Minneapolis U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care System found that caregivers who had not received training on how to navigate the healthcare system have higher levels of depression than those who did. They felt burdened by their responsibilities and had lower self-esteem than those who had more knowledge.

According to the American Psychological Association in a Public Interest Directorate Report there is a certain inherent risk of caregivers developing depression, suggesting that caregivers should receive mental health screenings for depression, anxiety, and grief.

The Family Caregiver Alliance states screenings for depression from a qualified mental health professional will measure symptoms such as:

  • Feeling sad, tearful, empty, hopeless
  • Changes in eating habits—weight loss and no appetite or cravings with weight gain
  • Changes in sleep—too much sleep or not enough
  • Feeling tired all the time, difficulty being motivated to do anything
  • A loss of interest in people and/or activities that once brought you pleasure
  • Feeling numb
  • Becoming easily agitated or angered
  • Feeling that nothing you do is good enough
  • Increase in alcohol or drug consumption
  • Excessive time on the Internet
  • Trouble focusing, thinking, or planning—as if your head was filled with fog
  • Neglecting your physical well-being and appearance
  • Thoughts of running away or escaping from the situation
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, ideas of how to end your life

The National Center on Caregiving’s Family Caregiver Alliance suggests that people experience depression differently. Screening for Mental Health and Speak Your Mind offer a resource list of places where you can take an anonymous screening.