Experts: routine depression screening for teenagers



teen-depressedIt is a problem that many parents face: clinical depression among teenagers.

As many as two million American teenagers suffer from depression and most go undiagnosed, thus untreated according to the United States Preventive Services Task Force. The task force has recently came up with guidelines recommending primary health care practitioners to routinely screen teenage patients for clinical depression. The new recommendations have been published in the April issue of the journal Pediatrics.

The guidelines apply to adolescents aged 12 to 18 years old. However, the task force found there is insufficient evidence to show the benefits of screening younger children for clinical depression

Depression in young people can lead to

  • poor health outcomes
  • difficulties in school
  • disruptions of family and social relationships
  • lowerquality of life
  • self-destructive behavior/suicide
  • depression in adulhood

It is therefore necessary that clinical depression be diagnosed as early as possible.

“Depression in adolescents has a significant impact on both mental and physical health, and adolescents with depression have more hospitalizations for psychiatric and medical issues than adolescents who are not depressed,” said Task Force Chair Ned Calonge, M.D., who is also chief medical officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “It is important that adolescents are diagnosed and treated for clinical depression in order to improve their health and quality of life, especially if they have a family history of depression.”

However, screening for clinical depression should only be done “when appropriate systems are in place to ensure accurate diagnosis, treatment and follow-up care.” Treatment of clinical depression among teenagers can be through by psychotherapy or by pharmacological means using selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), or combined therapy (SSRIs plus psychotherapy). However, the prescription of anitdepressants SSRIs should be done with care as this class of drugs is associated with an increased risk of suicidality.

The new guidelines go further than the previous guideline issued by the Academy of Pediatrics which recommended pediatricians to ask their young patients questions about depression.

The new recommendarions cited using “two questionnaires that focus on depression tip-offs, like mood, anxiety, appetite and substance abuse.” The screening should be done by the family doctor or pediatrician who is known to the family and the patient.

Almost 6% of Amrican teenagers aged 13 to 18 are clinically depressed. A lot of cases do not show over symptoms and are therefore easily overlooked by parents and teachers. Suicide due to clinical depression is the 3rd leading cause of death in US adolescents in the age range 15 to 24 years old.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.
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