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January 2011



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Off-site link to mental illness information
Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln and his depressions

His unremitting despair and constant failure steeled his character.

by John McManamy

The year is 1860. In a makeshift meeting hall, the Illinois delegation to the approaching Republican Convention is meeting to consider which of their own to back as a favorite son for the Presidential nomination. There is no clear-cut favorite. Moreover, it’s widely acknowledged the choice will be an empty gesture. The nomination is virtually a done deal. William Seward of New York, the party’s leading light, has nearly all the delegates he needs for a first ballot victory.

But then something completely unexpected happens. Abraham Lincoln is introduced. A distant relation enters carrying two split log rails. From them hangs a banner:

Abraham Lincoln
The Rail Candidate

The crowd goes wild. The hall shakes so much that the canvass roof flies off the building. The image of a humble rail-splitter is all this group of delegates needs to give Lincoln its enthusiastic backing. The dynamics of the nomination has completely changed. Illinois’ freshly-minted favorite son is on his way to becoming a serious contender.

The meeting breaks up the next day. In the nearly empty hall, a man sits alone, elbows bent, hands pressed to his face. He confides to someone who approaches him, “I’m not feeling too well.” The man is Abraham Lincoln. He is battling a crushing depression.


Copyright 2009 John McManamy

Free online depression screening effective in connecting at risk people with treatment resources

Screening for Mental Health, Inc., the leading U.S. nonprofit provider of online and in-person mental health screening programs, today released results from a follow-up study of participants in the 2008 National Depression Screening Day® (NDSD) online program.

The study found that over half of participants sought depression treatment in the three months following their initial screening. NDSD, the nation’s oldest voluntary, community-based screening program for depression and related disorders, provides individuals with the opportunity to complete a validated screening questionnaire, receive educational information about depression, and obtain a recommendation and referral for further evaluation if warranted.

The results of this study are very encouraging as they reinforce the effectiveness of anonymous, web-based screening programs in connecting individuals at risk for depression with treatment resources,” said Douglas G. Jacobs, MD, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and founder of Screening for Mental Health, Inc. “Early detection of mental health disorders such as depression greatly increases the chances that an individual will receive the appropriate treatment and experience a better quality of life.

The study was conducted by Robert Aseltine, PhD, Professor of Behavioral Sciences and Community Health and Director of the Institute for Public Health Research at the University of Connecticut Health Center. Dr Aseltine surveyed 322 participants who completed the depression screening tool online between October and December of 2008 and sought to evaluate the success of online screenings in leading individuals into treatment. According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, nearly two thirds of people suffering from depression do not seek help, but the NDSD survey suggests that confidential online screenings, which are highly accessible and nonthreatening to users, may help to improve these statistics.

Findings from the survey include:

  • 55% of participants sought depression treatment within three months of screening.
  • 31% of these had never previously been treated for depression.
  • Of those seeking treatment, 52% received both counseling and medication, 28% received medication only, and 13% received counseling only.
  • Over one third of participants with a likelihood of depression said that medication had helped “a lot.”
  • 55% of those who initially scored “Very Likely for Depression”-the highest possible score range in the NDSD screening-were no longer in that range at follow up.
  • 46% of those who initially scored “Likely for Depression” were in the “Unlikely for Depression” range at follow up.

In recognition of National Depression Screening Day on Thursday, October 8th, 2009 community organizations, primary care providers, colleges and military installations throughout the nation will offer free, anonymous mental health screenings to educate members of the public on the symptoms of depression and the appropriate course of action to take. Individuals will have the opportunity to complete a brief questionnaire, and speak with a health care professional regarding their personal situations. In addition to the in-person events, members of the public can also take the screening online at http://www.MentalHealthScreening.org.

The goal of NDSD is to reach that portion of the population with depression who are not seeking help,” said Jacobs. “We have found these questionnaires and screenings to be a critical first step in educating individuals on how to seek help themselves or help loved ones who may be struggling with depression by recognizing certain behaviors.“ 

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