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New Pediatric Guidelines Suggest Testing Teens For Depression

Flickr user (rockindave1) David Pacey

The American Academy of Pediatrics released new guidelines this week for regular wellness check-ups for children. One major recommendation is an automatic screening for depression for healthy teenagers and adolescents.

The screening for pediatric depression guidelines are based on recent research that shows early intervention can make a difference for teenagers who show early signs of depression.

Dr. Ricardo Quiñonez, division chief for pediatric hospital medicine at the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, said the new recommendation is a screening tool that asks specific questions at every annual check-up for patients 11 to 21 years of age.

“Questions that have been validated that will ask parents and teens about their mood, about their behavior, about things like school work and home life that are specifically targeted to find whether activities of daily life may not be going well and that are early symptoms of depression,” Quiñonez said.

Quiñonez said the screening is in the form of a questionnaire that is filled out by the child and his parent and it takes less than a minute. 

Another new guideline adds an assessment of adolescents’ alcohol and drug use.

“Yeah, I think they’re very related. And now the recommendation is just based on the fact that now we have better screening tools, Quiñonez said. "It has always been common practice and recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics to discuss these issues. Now what we have is better tools to assess this. And so that’s the updated recommendation that tells you which ages should be screened for this. And of course the age now is as early as 11 years of age because we know kids even at this young age can engage in these behaviors. "

Other new guidelines issued this week for well-child check-ups include routine cholesterol testing for children at the ages of nine and 11, HIV testing for children at ages 16 and 18, and the elimination of the cervical cancer test among girls younger than 21 years of age.

Eileen Pace is a veteran radio and print journalist with a long history of investigative and feature reporting in San Antonio and Houston, earning more than 50 awards for investigative reporting, documentaries, long-form series, features, sports stories, outstanding anchoring and best use of sound.