Why are the first questions you get from your doctor about depression?

June 08, 2018 06:14 PM

Our week started and is now ending with two celebrity suicides.

CNN's Anthony Bourdain was found dead inside his Paris apartment last night. On Tuesday, designer Kate Spade died inside her apartment in New York City.

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News10NBC also found troubling numbers on the increase in suicide rates in this country. That said, we have been working all week on a story about how local doctors try to identify patients with depression. 

When patients walk into Dr. Joseph DiPoala's office in Irondequoit the first question they get is about depression. 

News10NBC Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: "Why do you do it?"

Dr. Joseph DiPoala, Ridgeview Internal Medicine Group: "We do it because depression is a major health concern in our society. And it's no exaggeration to say we can save lives." 

It's called the Patient Health Questionnaire.

Every patient gets the first two questions. If they answer yes, they get another seven questions and those answers determine what kind of mental health care they get. 

Click here to read the questionnaire
Brean: "In your experience, how many answer yes?"

Dr. DiPoala: "It's probably around 10 or 15 percent of patients will score positive on this screen." 

And that's what happened when Dr. DiPoala asked the questions to Serena Butler. 

Dr. DiPoala: "Over the past two weeks, have you felt down, depressed or helpless? Not at all, several days, more than half the days or nearly every day?" 

Serena Butler, patient: "Nearly every day."

The questionnaire is part of a county-wide strategy lead by the Monroe County Medical Society. Chris Bell is the director. 

"Patients who are treated appropriately for their major depressive disorder have better outcomes on other chronic diseases that they may also have," Bell said.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control, since 1999, suicides rates have gone up in every state but Nevada. In New York, they're up 28 percent. 

Click here to see the CDC map

Because of her honest answers, Serena Butler got seven more questions from her doctor. 

"I am grateful to my doctor that he asks me those questions," Butler said. 

If you have Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield, MVP or your self-insured employer didn't opt out, your insurance covers these questions.

News10NBC has provided a list of suicide prevention resources below. Please visit any of these links if you or anyone else you may know needs help. 

American Foundation of Suicide Prevention

American Association of Suicidology

National Institutes of Health: Suicide Prevention

You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). 


Berkeley Brean

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