The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is advising depression and suicide risk screenings for all adolescents age 12 and older, according to their updated schedule for preventative care released online this week.
The screening for suicide risk was added to the existing depression screening recommendation consistent with the AAP’s Guidelines for Adolescent Depression in Primary Care, which were released in 2018.
In the 2018 guidelines, the AAP recommended yearly depression screening for anyone between the ages of 12 and 21, citing reports that about 50% of adolescents with depression are diagnosed before reaching adulthood and as many as two in three depressed teens don’t get any help or care.
The AAP health screening recommended by the AAP urges health providers to assess risk with a set of questions.
“Often it’s nine different questions that are asking about depressive symptoms and very frequently at the end of that set of questions, a kid is asked about suicide ideation or thoughts of self-harm, thoughts that they rather may be dead or alive, thoughts that they may be struggling a little bit,” said Dr. Nathan Copeland Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at Duke Health, according to CBS 17.
Doctors are then urged to discuss mental health resources if they identify a concern.
“It’s something kids have been struggling with for a really long time and if we can come out of this as a community, being more able to support each other, if we can come out of this being more able to engage kids and support kids, I think there’s a lot of hope there,” Copeland said.
Since the pandemic, rates of depression and anxiety have continued skyrocketing among adolescents and children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 44% of teenagers felt hopeless or persistently sad in the first few months of 2021 and 55% said they experienced emotional abuse at home, according to a survey published April 1.
“Mental health challenges in children, adolescents, and young adults are real and widespread. Even before the pandemic, an alarming number of young people struggled with feelings of helplessness, depression, and thoughts of suicide — and rates have increased over the past decade,” U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said last December in an advisory.
“The COVID-19 pandemic further altered their experiences at home, school, and in the community, and the effect on their mental health has been devastating. The future wellbeing of our country depends on how we support and invest in the next generation,” he added.