New methods make it possible to screen children for anxiety and depression

While anxiety and depression rates among children and teens reached crisis levels during the pandemic, the numbers have been high for the past decade. As a result, when parents bring their children in for their annual checkup, parents can expect their children to be asked to complete screening questionnaires for anxiety and depression.

Anxiety and depression in children and teens are common conditions; for some it’s situational and for others it’s chronic, says Dr. Yann Poncin, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Yale Medicine and assistant clinical professor of child psychiatry. In the U.S., nearly 10 percent of children and adolescents have an anxiety disorder, and 14 percent had a major depressive disorder before the pandemic, said Lori Pbert, a volunteer member of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force who recommended the screenings. “We don’t want them to suffer in silence,” said Pbert, a professor in the department of population and quantitative health sciences at UMass Chan Medical School. “Anxiety disorders are missed. The average time to start treatment is 23 years.”

Anxiety and depression are not signs of weakness; they are neurological conditions with a biological component, says Dr. Javeed Sukhera, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and chair of psychiatry at Hartford’s Institute of Living. “We know that early mental health promotion and prevention positively impacts the well-being of both parent and child and leads to better outcomes later in life,” he says. “Not acting early can have long-lasting consequences.”

New methods make it possible to screen children for anxiety and depression

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