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National Depression Screening Day Is Oct. 11

Held annually during Mental Illness Awareness Week in October, National Depression Screening Day raises awareness and screens people for depression and related mood and anxiety disorders. Screening for Mental Health offers NDSD programs for the military, colleges and universities, community-based organizations, and businesses. 

NDSD is the nation’s oldest voluntary, community-based screening program that 
provides referral information for treatment. Through the program, more than half a million people each year have been screened for depression since 1991.

Individuals can take a free, anonymous, mental health screening online or locate an in-person screening site at

Mental health screenings are an easy way for people to monitor their health and learn about local treatment options.

After completing a screening, participants receive referral information to local agencies that offer further evaluation and treatment. 

New AMHCA Dues Category Benefits New Professionals

Effective July 1, 2012, AMHCA extended student membership dues for two years post-graduation, creating the new category “professional associate.” This replaces the former “extended student” category. The professional associate category gives new graduates access to low AMHCA student dues and valuable benefits for two additional years.

AMHCA recognizes the current difficult job market and has established this category to support our valued professional associates in getting off to a strong start with their new careers.

AMHCA has several categories of membership. The professional associate membership category applies to both master’s and doctoral degrees. For information or questions, please contact AMHCA’s membership office at or 1-800.326.2642, x103. 

New, Free Online Course on Treating the Invisible Wounds of War

Army OneSource, an AMHCA partner, is encouraging civilian behavioral healthcare providers to complete a FREE online course in the series, “Treating the Invisible Wounds of War.” Those who complete the course are eligible for four CEUs.

This series of courses was designed to help providers—including clinical mental health counselors—develop a better understanding of the culture in which service-members and veterans, as well as their families, live and work. The course also provides best practices for identifying, assessing, and treating behavioral health problems that result from the trauma of war.

Diplomate Application Deadline Is Oct. 15

Can you demonstrate advanced clinical counseling proficiency beyond licensure? Do you have expertise in a particular specialty of clinical mental health counseling? If so, you may be eligible for the AMHCA Diplomate and Clinical Mental Health Specialist (DCMHS).

About two dozen AMHCA members were awarded this credential at AMHCA’s Annual Conference in July (see the list of Diplomate awardees). The Diplomate awards will be bestowed in a quarterly cycle. The deadline for fall applicants is Oct. 15. 

Find out if you are eligible and apply for the Diplomate credential by Oct. 15! 


The Evolution of Depression

Excerpted from University of Virginia Magazine; Summer 2012, pages 34–35.

Since the dawn of the species about 200,000 years ago, humans have evolved in response to the environments in which they’ve found themselves. In Northern Europe, lighter skin helped early inhabitants get enough vitamin D during the dark winters. In places in Africa plagued by malaria, many people have a genetic mutation that makes them immune. 

Like all living things since the first protozoa, the human body has been shaped by natural selection. And evolutionary psychology suggests that the mind has as well. Evolutionary psychologists look for the advantages of different behaviors and mental traits that might cause them to spread through the population. ...

U.Va. psychiatrist Dr. Andy Thomson (Med ’74) … and his collaborator Paul Andrews, now at McMaster University in Canada, believe that depression is an evolutionary paradox. If it didn’t confer any advantages, it should have been selected against and occur only rarely in the population. What kind of evolutionary advantage might depression have?

“Depression, psychic pain, alerts you to the fact that you have a problem, stops business as usual, focuses your attention, and can provide a signaling function that you need help,” says Thomson.

“Basically, it forces you to think. Now with all its stressors and the myriad ways of evading them, modern life doesn’t encourage you to think deeply. But thinking deeply works. It’s doing what the mind was made to do.”

He and Andrews went looking for evidence that rumination—focused meditation on a problem, common in depressed people—might confer some advantages on depressed people. First, the pair focused on neuroscience. ... A few other studies support the hypothesis that depressed people outperform nondepressed people at certain mental tasks. … 

Dr. J. Kim Penberthy, a clinical psychologist and associate professor in the department of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences at U.Va, ... cites a review article by Dr. Charles DeBattista that concludes that “the types of executive deficits seen in depression include problems with planning, initiating, and completing goal-directed activities” and that such “executive dysfunction” tends to worsen in direct proportion to the severity of depression.

Penberthy also says that depression isn’t entirely caused by genes, and thus calls into question whether evolutionary psychology is a helpful tool for understanding it. ...

Thomson says that evolutionary psychology is inclusive of biopsychosocial causes. He suggests an analogy, “If you have an infection, you have the latent ability to respond with fever,” he says. 

Trauma can be compared to an infection and depression may be our latent ability to respond to it, like a fever.

During the last 200,000 years, the human brain has grown larger as men and women have navigated an increasingly complex human society and an often-dangerous natural environment. It seems reasonable that responding to difficult circumstances—a drought, a family conflict—with genuine sadness and deep, concentrated thought would be adaptive.

“But clinical depression is a very different thing,” says Penberthy, “and research suggests that it is hardly an adaptive state of being.”

“Like pain, depression can malfunction,” says Thomson. “We never say all depression is adaptive.” Thomson points out that although grief and depression have very similar symptoms, depression is considered a disease, while grief is not. “It’s just another indication,” he says, “of my profession’s confusion about the fundamental design and function of depression.”