Is your child depressed? A yearly screening can help

January 04, 2023 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

You take your child to a pediatrican or other primary care provider for a fever, sore throat or ear ache. But what about her/his emotional and mental health? It can be more difficult to notice when your child is depressed. Fortunately, a universal screening is making it easier.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), in conjunction with the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), recommends all youth ages 12 and up be screened for depression at least once a year, even if they’re not showing symptoms.

Additionally, the USPSTF recommends screening for anxiety in youth ages 8 to 18. The AAP also recommends all children ages 12 and up (and ages 8-11 when clinically indicated) be screened for suicide risk.

The screenings are a step in the right direction. For whatever reason, there’s a stigma associated with mental illness, especially among adolescents. But there shouldn’t be. We need to make depression easier to talk about.

Depression is a leading cause of disability in the United States. As many as 1 in every 5 teens experience depression at some point during adolescence. Unfortunately, the majority of depressed youth often go undiagnosed and untreated.

Major depressive disorder in children and adolescents is strongly associated with depression in adulthood, other mental disorders, and an increased risk for suicide — a second-leading cause of death among youth aged 10 to 19.

Through screenings, primary care providers will be more prepared to identify issues and help struggling children and teens get the help they need.

The screening can be done during an annual wellness visit, a sports' physical, or another office visit. The child or teen may be given a self-reported questionnaire to fill out privately, with questions about sleep habits, concentration, and sad or hopeless feelings. The child’s doctor may talk to their young patients alone, and then talk separately with parents.

If the screening identifies an issue, your child’s doctor can offer treatment or a referral to a mental health professional. Treatment for depression may include counseling, support programs, medications, or a combination of these approaches.

Parents should know that depression in teens may not look like what you expect. Some depressed teens don’t even seem sad. Instead, young people with depression may be irritable or angry, and may act out or misbehave.

Talk to your child’s primary care physician about screening for depression. And, be aware of warning signs of depression in children, including changes in eating or sleeping habits, irritability/moodiness, and isolation.

Edward-Elmhurst Health has been committed to mental health for 25 years with Linden Oaks Behavioral Health. Our behavioral health specialists are integrated into our physician offices so they’re easily accessible. Get support from Linden Oaks Behavioral Health.

Linden Oaks Behavioral Health Hospital, 24-hour Help Line: 630-305-5027.

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, 24/7 help is available. Call or text 988 or chat

Related blogs:

988: The new 911 for mental health

Never a reason: talking with your teen about depression

Erase the stigma of mental illness

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