Anxiety & Depression Screenings for Children & Teens

We all remember me going over why CBT in classrooms is a good idea, but now there is new evidence on the benefits of screening for anxiety and depression in children and teens. Early intervention is key in these situations.

New research suggests that annual anxiety screening should start as early as 8 years old and end at 18 years old for children and teens with no diagnosed mental health condition with no signs or symptoms. Children and teens who are showing signs and symptoms should be assessed by a mental health professional or primary care physician to be referred as soon as possible.

We should already know by now that the statistics of children and teens with mental health complications are staggering now, but here’s a refresher: 8 in 100 children and teens met the criteria for an anxiety disorder in 2019 – this was BEFORE the pandemic, so the numbers are expected to be higher now. The CDC declared a youth mental health crisis in 2021 due to the increase in reported depressive symptoms in children and teens as well as a 44% increase in suicidal thoughts and behaviors among children and teens. Suicidal behaviors include things that may potentiate death. Untreated childhood anxiety can lead to an increased risk of worsening disorders and increased risk of depression. Only 1 in 5 children with a mental illness receive help.

The new guidelines suggest children with no signs or symptoms are screened by their primary care physician or family doctor during their annual wellness visits using the PHQ-9 scale (self-reported screen for depression) as well as the SCARED scale to screen for anxiety. The sole purpose is not for the child to be diagnosed by the PCP but to be referred to a mental health professional who may assist in therapy, treatment, or diagnosis if necessary.

What do you think of these new guidelines? Let me know in the comments.

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