POSTED: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 - 11:36am
UPDATED: Monday, June 30, 2014 - 9:03am
Mental health conditions can be tough to diagnose and patients often go years without knowing what's wrong. But now there's a new test that may help identify a person's illness. It only takes three minutes, and doctors say it can help save a person's life.
"I had 15 hospitalizations. I had electro-shock therapy,” said patient Patrick Hendry.” I'd been on... I can't even tell you how many medications over the years."
It took five long years before Patrick Hendry was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It was during those years that his business crumbled, his marriage suffered and he lost relationships with friends.
"That's why anything we can use to find early warning signs or figure out what's going on with the person as soon as possible, really changes the outcome of the illness," he said.
Now doctors have a new tool to help diagnose mental illness. It's called the M3 screen, a 30-question online test that looks for key signs of conditions like depression, post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and bipolar disorder.
"We need a test to make it easier for patients to get diagnosed in medical practices and primary care practices because we've known for decades that depression, anxiety and other mental health illnesses are not getting recognized well enough and are not getting treated well enough," said Dr. Robert Post.
After someone takes the test, it immediately gives you a number from zero to just over 100. If the number is over 30, a person may have a mental health condition. The higher the number, the more severe that condition might be.
Dr. Robert post is a former National Institute of Mental Health psychiatrist. He helped develop the M3 screen.
"We think it's critical the patients have numbers just like everybody knows their blood pressure or their cholesterol numbers," Dr. Post said.
Bethesda internist Dr. Alan Sheff has been using the M3 screen with patients during their annual check-up. He says it's helped him identify some patients that he thought were depressed but really suffered from PTSD or bipolar disorder.
He says the online screening helps him get information on his patients much quicker than simply asking them in person.
"In primary care, we're trying to take care of the person, so that shouldn't just be a list of health issues,” Dr. Sheff said. “We want to take care of the emotional and psychosocial part of the health as well."
Test results aren't a diagnosis but can tell you or your doctor if you should seek further treatment.