AAP recommends universal screening of adolescents for depression

Mental health problems are not limited to adults only. Teenagers and adolescents are equally vulnerable to such conditions. With the prevalence of mental health issues increasing across the United States at an unprecedented rate, it has become necessary to focus on the emotional health of children. And depression is one of the most common mental conditions among adolescents. To deal with the growing problem, experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have suggested that children over 12 years of age be checked for symptoms of depression at least once a year.

The suggestion was included in the updated recommendations titled “Guidelines for Adolescent Depression in Primary Care (GLAD PC)” regarding screening and management of depression for children. The guidelines were published online recently in the journal Pediatrics.

“Despite the 2007 guidelines, there are pediatricians who think it’s not standard of care for them to be prescribing antidepressants, so I think it’s important that with the newly revised guidelines, there should be an emphasis for pediatricians (and general practitioners) to realize that the (American Academy of Pediatrics) is supporting them, and at times, this can be standard of care,” said Dr. Rachel Zuckerbrot, one of the co-authors of the guidelines and an associate professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University, New York City.

AAP researchers had initiated the modification process in the guidelines in 2007 following the inability of the research group to arrive at a common point concerning the universal adolescent depression screening recommendation. The GLAD PC recommendations endorsed by AAP had originally suggested evaluation of depression risk factors with screening advised to those detected with risk factors. Inability to reach a consensus on the above recommendation finally led to streamlining of existing guidelines that endorse depression screening of all teenagers using a formal self-report tool. The new guidelines are in sync with the current recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, in addition to the prevalent AAP Bright Futures Preventive Pediatric Health Care table.

Key points of new guidelines

The researchers underscore the evidence-based methods for youths aged 10-21 years. The new guidelines stress on the need for primary health care pediatricians to learn how to identify manifestations of depression and manage them in teenagers suffering from the disorder. The recommendations also persuade pediatricians to identify patients who are more prone to depression, in addition to educating parents and their wards about ways to manage signs of the disorder during adolescence.

The shortage of professionals required for providing the much-needed help has led to a large number of teenagers with emotional disorders either remaining undiagnosed or untreated. According to a research cited by the AAP experts, nearly 50 percent of adolescents affected by depression remain undiagnosed in pediatric primary care settings before they become adults. Besides, almost two-thirds are bereft of necessary treatment. Even after teenagers are diagnosed with depression, roughly half of them are ignored and do not get necessary treatment.

Treating depression early

It is necessary that the execution of the new guidelines be done skillfully, which means that pediatricians, in conjunction with patients and their families, must design and implement an age-appropriate treatment plan that matches with the seriousness of the patients’ diagnosis. The researchers claim that management plan must include referrals along with support from community mental health services in addition to a safety plan and emergency management measures when patients are suffering from serious bouts of depression and exhibit suicidal behavior.

Teens are more vulnerable to issues of depression and mental disorientation. The White River Academy (WRA), a world-class Utah boarding school for troubled youth, provides the best facilities for screening depression among its teenaged students and advises them regarding necessary treatment. For more information about getting your teen admitted in our boarding schools in Utah, call our 24/7 helpline number. You may also chat with our online counselor for more details concerning facilities available in Utah school for troubled youth.

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