Health beat: Online help for mental health

  • Article by: MAURA LERNER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 16, 2013 - 5:55 PM

It's not exactly do-it-yourself depression care.

But two Minnesota health groups have created a free online program to help patients make and track their progress while they're under a doctor's care.

The Help and Healing toolkit for depression (www.startribune.com/a2005) was introduced this week by MN Community Measurement and the Minnesota Health Action Group.

"This day and age, people can go out and search for lots of stuff to help them," said Jim Chase, president of MN Community Measurement, which is best known for its annual ratings of hospitals and clinics.

"We tried to gather up some of the things we think are most important for patients with depression."

The site includes a test that patients can take themselves -- the same test used at many Minnesota clinics to measure depression. Called the PHQ-9, it consists of nine questions about common symptoms -- such as sleep problems, thoughts of suicide, changes in appetite and energy levels -- that can help assess the severity of someone's condition.

It also has tip sheets on self-care: How diet, exercise, meditation and other activities can help boost the chances of recovery.

There's also a two-page "Depression Health Tracker" to keep a personal record of your progress and tips for preventing a recurrence of symptoms.

There's even a section for doctors and other medical professionals.

Chase says this isn't meant as a replacement for professional care but as a tool to help patients in between doctor visits.

It's become increasingly clear, he said, that "self-management" can play a huge role in helping people cope with depression.

"We want to unleash the power of patients to help them help themselves," he said. "There's going to be people out there who are going to realize, by looking at this, that they could benefit by actually taking some action on their depression."

Maura.lerner@startribune.com

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