The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is recommending for the first time ever that health care professionals screen children and adolescents ages 8 to 18 years for anxiety, and screening children from 12 to 18 years for major depressive disorder.
Although the Task Force ultimately concluded there is not enough evidence to recommend for or against screening for anxiety and depression in younger children, concerns have been expressed about escalating mental health needs.
In December the U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory on the urgent need to address the nation’s youth mental health crisis; more recently, a report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that rates of anxiety and depression increased more than 25 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic, affecting over a million children.
The Task Force's announcement was based on a literature review published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
In their report, the Task Force called for studies to close research gaps in several areas, including:
the benefits and harms of screening children and adolescents for anxiety or suicide risk in primary care settings compared with no screening or usual care,
the feasibility of using screening tools in primary care;
the accuracy of screening tools in children and adolescents and the effectiveness of anxiety treatment in younger children;
the benefits and harms of screening for and treating major depressive disorder in children 11 years or younger; and
the effects of collaborative care and integrated behavioral health in children and adolescents.
You can read the report here.