“Too many children and teens are experiencing mental health concerns. This has been going on for many years and the COVID-19 pandemic has simply escalated the problem,” said clinical psychologist Lori Pbert, PhD. Therefore, the USPSTF is recommending that children 8 to 18 should have regular anxiety screenings.

The United States Preventative Task Force (USPSTF) has recently released new information regarding the rise of depression and anxiety of youth mental health. The task force recommends, “anxiety screenings for youth, ages 8 to 18, and depression screenings for adolescents, ages 12 to 18 (Abrams)”. Evidence was insufficient to unilaterally recommend anxiety screenings for children 7 and under, depression screenings for children 11 and under, or suicidality screenings at any age (Abrams).” However, this recommendation also applies to children and adolescents without a diagnosed mental health condition or symptoms of depression or anxiety. The screening itself should typically be done by the child’s primary care provider.

Unfortunately, psychologists and mental health professionals are already facing strain and burnout. There is also a demand for service that surpasses the amount of professionals and others who are qualified in the mental health field. Therefore, adding many more cases to this load can be difficult and challenging. “Simply put, in many communities, treatment will not be available after screening” said by Daniel Mullin, PsyD, MPH. However, the task force believes that recommendations like these can spread awareness of the need for greater mental health care for children and adolescents. One way to help this situation is through phone consultations given by a psychologist to the child’s primary care provider.

The testing will most likely take place during an annual check-up. “Providers can use several evidence-based tools for evaluating anxiety and depression in children and teens, such as the 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire for depression and the Screen for Child Anxiety Related Disorders (SCARED) for anxiety. SCARED includes a list of questions for children, with items such as “I get stomach aches when I am at school” and “I worry about things working out for me,” as well as a related list for parents (Abrams).”

This recommendation is a two-edged sword, however, if anxiety and depression in children continues to go untreated then there is risk for future anxiety disorders and chronic depression.

Abrams, Z. (2022). Why the benefits of annual anxiety and depression screenings for kids
and teens outweigh the risks. Vol. 54 No. 1. Pg. 21.