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AAP Recommends Mental Health Screening for All U.S. Youth

June 22, 2022Pediatricians should perform mental health screenings on all children and adolescents, evaluating for depression, anxiety, and suicide risk, says a new draft recommendation issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).1 A response to the growing mental health crisis among youth, this AAP guidance recommends screening adolescents ages 12 and up for major depressive disorder and youths ages 8 and up for anxiety, even in the absence of documented symptoms.Earlier this year, the AAP recommended universal screening for all kids age 12 and older for suicide risk; for kids aged eight 8 to 11, screening was recommended only when “clinically indicated,” such as when warning signs were present.John Piacentini, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA, called the AAP draft recommendation important because “anxiety in children is often less easily identified than other disorders, such as ADHD, which can delay treatment.” Left untreated, he said, anxiety is associated with increased risk of depression, self-harm, substance use, and other health risks in later life.The AAP joined the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) in drafting the screening recommendations and in noting a need for further research on evaluating younger children for mental health conditions.

Unlike the AAP, the USPSTF determined that there is not enough evidence for or against screening for suicidality at all ages, and called for more research.The USPSTF is a volunteer panel of experts working to improve preventive care policy nationwide. The recommendation is currently being finalized, and it will be published soon in the Journal of the American Medical Association.The American Academy of Pediatrics, (June 21,

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