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.
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.
[The abridged URL for this post is http://tinyurl.com/TeenScreening .]