Teens to be screened for depression at yearly exams

DENVER -- The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that all teenagers be screened for depression at their yearly exams.

Research shows one in five teens experience depression, and up to two thirds go undiagnosed.

“I think we have the potential to pick up probably double to triple the number of teenagers who really are truly suffering, and get them some help,” said Dr. Nancy Lataitis, at Partners in Pediatrics in Denver.

She says in the past doctors there have screened for depression if there was a concern.  But now every patient, age 12 and older will be screened with a questionnaire.  It could ask about interest or pleasure in doing things, feeling down or hopeless, trouble falling asleep, having a poor appetite, or deeper questions.

“I believe it’s an excellent idea,” said Linda Sawano, a mother of three.  She says its hard to be a teen these days.  “The violence in schools, bullying,” she said, “social media that’s out there.”

Linda says sometimes it’s hard to know if your teen is going through typical teenage stuff, or something more.  “ I know with my boys it was much harder to recognize what are you going through? or are you just cranky?”

She and the doctor think the screenings will be impactful.  “I think we are going to help identify kids who are trying to figure out how to get help, and hopefully get them turned around, which will be great,” Dr. Lataitis said.  She hopes this will help get rid of the stigma as well.

Doctors have some tips for parents.  They say teens may not say, “I’m depressed.”  Instead they may use words like “down” or “stressed.”  And not all depressed people act sad.  Some could seem angry or irritable.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for kids this age.  Doctors say if your teen is depressed, make sure they do not have access to firearms.