By Carol Pipes
This week the American Academy of Pediatrics issued updated guidelines recommending yearly universal screening for depression in teens.
The AAP report says only 50 percent of adolescents with depression are diagnosed before reaching adulthood. And as many as 2 in 3 depressed teens don’t receive the care they need.
“It’s a huge problem,” Dr. Rachel Zuckerbrot, a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist who helped write the guidelines, told NPR.
The guidelines call for all teenagers ages 12 to 21 to be screened at least once a year by their primary care physician, either during regular wellness exams, sports physicals, or other visits.
NPR reported that many pediatricians have already begun making depression screenings a regular part of their practices and use a questionnaire that teens fill out themselves.
The questionnaires contain a range of questions. For instance, one version, asks: ‘Over the past two weeks, how often have you been bothered by any of the following problems: feeling down, depressed or hopeless? Or, little interest or pleasure in doing things?’ Teens are also asked questions such as, ‘Are you having difficulty with sleep, either too much or too little?’ ‘Any problems with eating?’
“It’s an opportunity for the adolescent to answer questions about themselves privately,” Zuckerbrot said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines also made several other recommendations including physician training in the assessment, identification, diagnosis, and treatment of teen depression.
They also recommended helping families with a suicidal teen develop a safety plan that includes removing lethal medications and firearms from the home environment.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, depression can lead to suicide, which is the second-leading cause of death for children aged 10 to 24.
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CAROL PIPES (@CarolPipes) is editor in chief of Facts & Trends.