Pediatricians push for yearly teen depression screenings

Teen depression is diagnosed in less than half of cases

Teen depression is a big issue many of us often overlook.

According to the National Institutes of Health, only half of teen depression cases get diagnosed before adulthood, and two in three adolescents don’t get the treatment they need.

“Teens who are depressed are at high risk to develop many serious problems that can lead to harming themselves or others,” said Stephen Johnson, M.D., Ph.D., pediatrician and child psychologist with Norton Children’s Medical Group – Springhurst. “We need to continue to address mental health issues head on.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is looking to do just that. The AAP recently issued updated guidelines that call for universal screenings for depression. The recommendations include screening at least once a year for adolescents ages 12 and up. The screening could take place during an annual wellness visit, a sports physical or another appointment.

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Depression screenings at Norton Children’s

All Norton Children’s Medical Group practices already administer depression screenings starting at age 11. The screenings include a form for the patient to fill out, which his or her doctor then reviews.

“The screening covers questions like, ‘Over the past two weeks, how often have you been bothered by feeling down, depressed or hopeless or had little interest or pleasure in doing things?’” Dr. Johnson said. “Their answers allow us to identify warning signs of depression and help patients start on the necessary path to treatment.”

Dr. Johnson agreed with the AAP’s recommendation but said more work needs to be done.

“There’s growing awareness of the need for young people to have good access to mental health care,” he said. “It’s not easy to be open about — especially for teens — but it’s a pretty common problem. We, as health professionals and a community, need to continue to talk about and look for ways to identify depression so we can treat it.