Are we Screening our kids for anxiety and depression?

The mental health of children and teens in the U.S. has been getting worse for years before the pandemic. The pandemic only worsened things. That's what prompted the task force to look closely at the research to see whether screening children using standardized questionnaires might benefit them.

A screening test is always performed as a preventative measure to detect a potential health problem or disease in someone that doesn’t yet have signs or symptoms. Lately, there is a rise in rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide behaviors, and suicide in young people.

The mental health of children and teens in the U.S. has been getting worse for years before the pandemic. The pandemic only worsened things. That’s what prompted the task force to look closely at the research to see whether screening children using standardized questionnaires might benefit them.

The evidence supports that screening for anxiety and depression in older children and adolescents will help identify children and allow them to connect them to care. Anxiety is internalized disorder, hence the recommendation to start screening kids for anxiety at age of and above.

However, Martha Kubik, a member of the task force and professor in the School of Nursing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., told The New York Times that children should be screened during their annual check-ups. “It’s critical to be able to intervene before a life is disrupted,” Kubik explained. Dr. Jennifer Havens chairs the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine says that anxious Kids are often very self-conscious and aren’t going to share this with their families or their physicians, necessarily. So screening is very, very good and it’s relatively easy to treat. We must treat mental health problems like health problems, and there are things that we can do early in life to keep kids healthy and prevent later problems.

The CDC reports that many kids under 18 are experiencing clinically elevated depression symptoms and about 21 percent are experiencing elevated anxiety symptoms. It also doubles down on a prior recommendation to screen for major depressive disorder and suicide among children ages 12 to 18. Before COVID-19, the most recent comprehensive national survey found that 8% of children had a current anxiety disorder. The burden of mental illness has only intensified during the pandemic. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released this month found that 37% of youth have experienced poor mental health since March 2020. This fall, a coalition of child health providers declared that the country was facing a national Emergency in Child and Adolescent Mental Health.

 In the short term, it can cause physical symptoms, such as unremitting headaches or stomachaches. Anxiety can also wreak havoc on daily life by leading kids to avoid school, interpersonal activities, and other situations. In the longer term, those disruptions can lead to poor performance and developmental delays. Additionally, anxiety can increase the risk of poor coping mechanisms such as substance use or the development of other forms of mental illness commonly associated with anxiety such as panic attacks or depression. To address the critical need for supporting the mental health of children the agency noted that children with certain adverse childhood experiences, such as trauma, abuse, and inter-parental conflict may face particularly high risks, as well as children experiencing poverty, or those from communities of color who may be subject to “historic trauma, structural racism.

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Specifically, blacks in the oldest cohort (born 1957 to 1969) reported lower rates of childhood anxiety disorders than whites. The black-white rates were similar in the middle group, those born 1957 to 1969. But in the youngest group, born between 1983 and 1991, black participants reported higher rates of childhood anxiety disorders.

Do black children have different mental health problems?

  • Black children do not experience mental health problems: Children can and do face mental health issues. Among Black children, the problem is especially acute, with suicide rates rising.

https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/features/anxiety-depression-children.html

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