Franklin James Cook

Teen Depression Screening Is Endorsed, if Therapy Is Available

In Mental Illness, Prevention on March 30, 2009 at 9:25 pm

ORIGINAL REPORT — Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner, reporting for the Associated Press, writes that “an influential government-appointed medical panel is urging doctors to routinely screen all American teens for depression.”

An estimated 6 percent [nearly 2 million] of U.S. teenagers are clinically depressed. Evidence shows that detailed but simple questionnaires can accurately diagnose depression in primary-care settings such as a pediatrician’s office.

The task force said that when followed by treatment, including psychotherapy, screening can help improve symptoms and help kids cope. Because depression can lead to persistent sadness, social isolation, school problems and even suicide, screening to treat it early is crucial, the panel said.

The recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force appears in April’s issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Because depression is so common, “you will miss a lot if you only screen high-risk groups,” said Dr. Ned Calonge, task force chairman and chief medical officer for Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment.

Calonge stressed that the panel does not want its advice to lead to drug treatment alone, particularly antidepressants that have been linked with increased risks for suicidal thoughts. Routine depression testing should only occur if psychotherapy is also readily available, the panel said. Calonge said screening once yearly likely would be enough.

The recommendation follows the passage of a mental health parity law in the United States, which “is expected to prompt many more adults and children to seek mental health care.”

A separate report, also released Monday in the Pediatrics journal, says primary care doctors including pediatricians and family physicians will need to get more involved in mental health care.

Dr. Alan Axelson, a Pittsburgh psychiatrist who co-authored the second report [said that] because children’s families often get to know their pediatricians, having those doctors offer mental health screening can help make it seem less stigmatizing.

Most pediatricians aren’t trained to do psychotherapy, but they can prescribe depression medication and monitor patients they’ve referred to others for therapy, he said.

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  1. The above article is a Press Release from Columbia University’s TeenScreen program, written by a PR company who is bought and paid for by TeenScreen.

    TeenScreen has a vested interest in depression screening – a procedure that their own studies revealed has a very high false-positive rate (labelling children who are not depressed and saying they are).

    My question – if there is really “nearly 2 million teens” affected by this debilitating condition, what did we do for the last hundreds of years that this is just now an “epidemic”?

    How is it that until the last 10 years this wasn’t even recognized as a situation? How did BILLIONS of teens throughout history ever survive without all this screening, diagnosing and treatment?

    And if the statement is true – then what has changed in our lives that makes this an epidemic now? Wouldn’t addressing THAT issue bring a resolve?

    I highly doubt that all those teens are suffering from a disorder of their brain! Maybe those vested interests are what has changed to bring about this “epidemic”.

    Do you know that when psychiatrists were surveyed it was found that the “treatment” for 9 out of 10 of the children IS drugging? And that rarely is a child put on just one drug – it is usually two or more. Do you know that according to surveys/studies that a regular pediatrician is MORE likely to prescribe a drug than therapy?

    And WHY is big government being allowed to put their noses into my families health? Since when does the government know BETTER than me what is best for my child? Who elected them to be the parent?

    And make no mistake about it – the paperwork and forms that you DON’T see have a checkbox that the screener fills out that looks like this:
    If the student’s screening indicated a problem;
    Did you notify parents? Yes No
    Provide a reference? Yes No
    Did parents agree to follow up? Yes No
    If Yes, did they do so in a timely and appropriate manner? Yes No
    If No, did you notify DHS (child services)? Yes No

    Our rights as parents are being eroded under the guise of “help”. Our tax dollars are paying for this invasion. Our Medicaid’s are going broke over the prescribing practices and the costs. Think those statements are alarmist and “right wing” or whatever? Then do the research and see for yourself!

    It is not impossible to look at individual state records and find out the costs of these drugs and the amount of money being dumped into screening. It is not hard to see what these escalating costs are doing to state’s budgets. It is easy to find the vested interests behind all this mental health and depression screening. All the documented information is on the internet.

    WHO BENEFITS? Follow the money!

  2. [Editor’s note: SPNAC has no relationship with Columbia University’s TeenScreen program nor with any other commercial interest and has never received a press release from TeenScreen or from anyone or any interest related to TeenScreen. FJC]

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