Health Experts Recommend Screening Children for Anxiety

The study identified some of the key risk factors, which make the prevalence of anxiety high among some segments of the population.

As a new father and mentor of children I had to deal first hand with anxiety several times throughout the process of my life and I think more programs and initiatives needs to be available for individuals like myself dealing with these issues.

Access to resources has come along way since before the internet and more parents are having challenges dealing with children’s health due to this new generation of youth.

A latest study published Tuesday by a leading mental health group recommended universal screenings for all kids between ages 8 to 18 for the first time. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) guidelines are not directly related to the COVID-related spike in anxiety and depression among children, but based on a careful assessment of long-term trends dating back to at least the 1950s. The suggestions are already being implemented on a limited scale with the help of a project funded by the United Health Foundation.

Anxiety is a form of abnormal and persistent high-energy state caused by uncertainty and stress, among other preconditions. In severe cases, it can have a crippling effect on a person’s capacity to function even in mundane day-to-day settings and can lead to other mental health issues or suicide.

The rise and rapid rise of anxiety since the 1950s has been well-documented by researchers and health experts. In fact, the average anxiety levels among children in the 1980s had already reached the same height as psychiatric patients just thirty years ago. While anxiety and other mental health issues continued to intensify, the Reagan-era cuts to mental health spending made the relevant services woefully unprepared in the subsequent decades. The COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying lockdowns have now made the situation worse than ever before.

The United States Preventive Services Task Force is composed of a volunteer panel of mental health experts, who review the relevant literature and make regular recommendations with regards to screening strategies and other preventative measures nationwide. On Tuesday October 11, the board published its latest findings, which recommend the screening of all children from ages 8-18 as having ‘moderate net benefit’, in contrast to previous guidelines, which found that the costs involved did not justify the expense. However, the USPSTF found insufficient evidence of high anxiety levels to make the same recommendations for children 7 or younger. The study also reaffirmed the 2016 recommendation of similar procedures for an early detection of depression among individuals aged 12-18.

The study identified some of the key risk factors, which make the prevalence of anxiety high among some segments of the population. These include family issues such as parent-child conflict, overprotection, and abuse, as well as external factors such as poverty and socioeconomic status. For some kids, big transitionary events such as changing schools or divorce might also trigger such a condition.

On the same day, the United Health Foundation made a three million dollar donation to Active Minds, a charity dedicated to promoting mental health awareness. The funding will be used to launch a new pilot program in 50 school districts in Florida, North Carolina and Minnesota to help address the mental health issues of middle schoolers in keeping with the USPSTF guidelines.

Dr. Irina Gorelik, a clinical psychologist associated with Williamsburg Therapy Group, spoke with CNBC about the policy change. She pointed out that many cases of mental health problems are currently caught only when they start to cause reduced performance at school. She lauded the universal screening efforts, noting that they will ‘help to minimize stigma around mental health issues’ since no kid will be excluded.

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