Screening Teens for Depression

depression_teenSo many parents take great pains to make sure their children are safe and protected. The American Academy of Pediatrics just released new guidelines suggesting there is something else we can do that could make a huge difference in the lives of millions of teens……screen them for depression.


Depression is a growing threat to American children and teens. As many as 1 in 5 teens experience depression at some point during adolescence, but parents often miss the clues, and as many as two out of three young people with depression go undiagnosed, research shows.

Because so many young people with mental illness don’t get help or treatment, pediatricians should routinely look for signs of depression in their young patients, according to updated guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“So many teens don’t have access to mental health care,” said family psychologist Dr. Jennifer Hartstein. “It has to start with their pediatrician, and these changes really point in that direction.”

According to National Public Radio (NPR), “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.”

“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.

MPR News has a short audio story on its web site titled “Pediatricians Call For Universal Depression Screening For Teens.” You can listen to it by clicking here or on the button below.


AAP News and Journals added, “the guidelines recommend active support and monitoring in primary care for those with mild depression, providing a clear role for the pediatrician. The guidelines also review the latest evidence in medication and psychotherapy treatment for adolescents with moderate to severe depression.”

The publication also listed numerous ‘key points’ in the new guidelines including:

  • Prepare your practice by attending mental health trainings.
  • Learn what statewide and/or local psychiatric consultation for primary care programs are available.
  • Interview adolescents alone.
  • Involve families in the depression assessment.
  • Devise a safety plan with youths and families.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on these new guidelines and whether you believe this is good first step in helping teens with mental health issues. Generating conversations around the health stories making headlines is another way we are working toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!

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