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Online depression test may allow the reluctant to seek help

Despite growing awareness of issues related to mental health and the prevalence of depression in the population, deep-rooted stigma still prevents many from getting the help they need.

A Calgary counselling centre is hoping to overcome some of those issues by offering a private, confidential online screening test to help people determine whether they have a problem.

Through the test, which will be available online this Thursday, people will be able to assess themselves for symptoms related to depression. The service will also provide referrals and information on where to get help.

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"It's all online and it allows people to confidentially see if they're dealing with a problem," said Robbie Babins-Wagner, CEO of the Calgary Counselling Centre.

The screening test is being offered on National Depression Screening Day, a yearly event designed to raise awareness of issues related to depression.

The screening day comes on the heels of a recent series by The Globe and Mail focusing on the problem of teen suicide in Canada.

The awareness day – and the test – was created by Screening for Mental Health Inc., a U.S.-based organization that focuses on providing the public with education, screening and treatment resources for mental health issues.

In recent years, National Depression Screening Day has expanded and tests now take place annually in 3,000sitesacross the United States, according to Mental Health America, a non-profit organization.

The concept hasn't yet become as widespread in Canada, according to Dr. Babins-Wagner, who recently earned a PhD from the faculty of social work at the University of Calgary.

But she hopes the Calgary centre will be able to take the online test to more organizations across the country in order to promote screening and boost awareness of issues related to depression and mental illness.

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The program has been well received and its confidential nature means it may be able to reach individuals who would otherwise have a difficult time broaching the subject of depression, Dr. Babins-Wagner said.

"The feedback we've gotten from the people who have taken [the test]has been very positive," she said.

Anyone can take the screening test, regardless of their location. Depending on their responses, individuals may be advised to consult a health-care practitioner.

For more information or to take the screening test this Thursday, visit www.test4depression.com.

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About the Author

Carly Weeks has been a journalist with The Globe and Mail since 2007.  She has reported on everything from federal politics to the high levels of sodium in the Canadian diet. More

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