Pediatricians Call For Universal Depression Screening For Teens
Only about 50 percent of adolescents with depression get diagnosed before reaching adulthood. And as many as 2 in 3 depressed teens don’t get the care that could help them. To address this divide, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued updated guidelines this week that call for universal screening for depression.
“It’s a huge problem,” says Dr. Rachel Zuckerbrot, a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist and associate professor at Columbia University.
“What we’re endorsing is that everyone, 12 and up, be screened … at least once a year,” Zuckerbrot says. The screening, she says, could be done during a well-visit, a sports’ physical or during another office visit.
Zuckerbrot helped write the guidelines, which have been in development for a while. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force also recommends depression screening, and many pediatricians have already woven the screenings into their practices.
“Teenagers are often more honest when they’re not looking somebody in the face who’s asking questions,” about their emotional health Zuckerbrot says. So, most pediatricians use a self-reported questionnaire that teens fill out themselves, either on an electronic device or on paper.
The new recommendations also call for families with a depressed teen to develop a safety plan to restrict the young person’s access to lethal means of harm. Suicide is a leading cause of death for children aged 10 to 17, and “adolescent suicide risk is strongly associated with firearm availability,” according to an AAP report.