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AAP Teen Depression Guidelines

New AAP Guidelines Recommend Teenagers Get Screened For Depression at Least Once a Year

According to the new guidelines released by the American Academy of Pediatrics on Feb. 26, pediatricians have recommended that teens between the ages of 12 and 21 get screened for depression at their annual check-ups.

This new update is the first change made to the teen depression guidelines in 10 years. The press release states that "one in every five teens experience depression at some point during adolescence, but they often go undiagnosed and untreated, sometimes because of a lack of access to mental health specialists."

A recent report from the AAP also confirmed that too many teens experience signs of depression and never actually receive any treatment. "Research shows that only 50 percent of adolescents with depression are diagnosed before reaching adulthood." The research also found that as many as two in three children with depression aren't identified by their pediatricians and fail to receive any type of care.

The study authors decided that in order to improve the state of mental health in the US, they needed to update its guidelines. "A lot of parents go to their pediatrician for the scraped knees and sore throats but don't think of them when it comes to seeking help for emotional and behavioral issues," explained Rachel Zuckerbrot, MD, a lead author of the guidelines. She added that: "There are often community mental health resources that families and physicians can consult to obtain the best possible care. The earlier we identify teenagers who show signs of depression, the better the outcome."

Experts are hoping the new recommendations will:

  • Provide a treatment team that includes the patient, family, and mental health professionals
  • Offer education and screening tools to identify, assess, and diagnose patients who are feeling depressed
  • Counsel patients on depression and give them options so they can manage the disorder
  • Develop a treatment plan with specific goals in functioning in the home, peer, and school settings
  • Develop a safety plan, which includes restricting lethal means like firearms in the home and providing emergency communication methods

Amy Cheung, MD, a lead author of the study, emphasized how important it is to get teenagers properly screened. "We would like to see teens fill out a depression screening tool as a routine part of their regular wellness visit," she said. "Parents should be comfortable offering any of their own observations, questions, or concerns, which will help the physician get a well-rounded picture of the patient's health."

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