A health panel filled with experts making recommendations on the benefits and harms of preventive health services has recommended for the first time that doctors screen all children between 8 and 18 for anxiety.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has also reaffirmed a view, recommending adolescents between 12 and 18 be screened for depression.
The task force is trying to reduce the number of children with undetected mental health conditions.
Dr. Cori Green, director of Behavioral Health Education and Integration in pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, told the New York Times, “The earlier you identify symptoms, the earlier you intervene, and that reduces the amount of time a child is suffering.”
Green did not work on the new recommendations with the Preventive Services Task Force.
Green said, “We are definitely missing children now” regarding detection.
There are a handful of evidence-based surveys that primary doctors can use, along with questionnaires that can screen their patients for depression and anxiety.
Joseph McGuire, a child psychologist with the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Maryland, said, “There are a variety of screening options, and I think it depends on the population, it depends on the setting, and I think it depends on the amount of time clinicians have.”
McGuire is not on the Preventive Services Task Force.
McGuire told the Times, “We want these tools to be usable, and what’s going to work will vary across settings.”
Research shows that half of the children in the United States with treatable mental health issues go untreated.