Panel recommends mandatory depression screening for teens and tweens

WASHINGTON — Most adolescents with depression don’t get the help they need, leaving many to suffer in silence.

That all could change very soon.

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force — a government advisory panel of experts — is out with new recommendations on screening for ages 12 through 18.

The panel says all tweens and teens should be checked for signs of depression as part of routine wellness visits with pediatricians and family doctors.

The experts say primary physicians should be able to do a basic diagnosis, and refer at-risk patients for appropriate care.

That’s similar to guidelines issued last month for adults.

Screening for depression between the ages of 12 and 18 used to be optional, but the task force says there are now basic tools that primary docs can use to make a diagnosis and all should be able to either treat a patient within their practice, or make a referral to a specialist.

The panel says roughly 8 percent of adolescents in national surveys say they have suffered from major depression in the past year.

A recent study from New York University put that figure at 12 percent, and found that most do not get proper treatment.

The task force made no recommendation on screenings for children under the age of 12.

The recommendations were published in two medical journals: “Annals of Internal Medicine” and “Pediatrics.”

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