Fort Worth, Texas,
15:15 PM

Pediatricians Urge Screening for Depression at Well-Child Visits

1 in 5 teens experience depression at some point during adolescence

DeMar DeRozan seems to have it all. He was the ninth player taken in the 2009 NBA draft, he’s been an All-Star for three straight seasons and his Toronto Raptors has the third best record in the league. He’s also wealthy, famous and receives supports from friends and family.

The 28 year old also suffers from depression.

"It's one of them things that no matter how indestructible we look like we are, we're all human at the end of the day," DeRozan said in an interview with The Toronto Star. "We all got feelings ... all of that. Sometimes ... it gets the best of you, where times everything in the whole world's on top of you."

DeRozan is not alone. Research shows that 1 in 5 teens experience depression at some point during adolescence. Unfortunately, studies also show that many parents miss the signs of three kids with depression go undiagnosed.

Because of these numbers, the American Academy of Pediatrics has updated their guidelines to recommend pediatricians routinely check for signs of depression in their young patients. The focus is to carefully screen patients ages 12 and over during annual checkups.

Kathleen Powderly, M.D., a Cook Children’s pediatrician in Fort Worth’s Magnolia office and a hospitalist, is very involved with this topic. She will be a keynote speaker at a community educational seminar on suicide prevention called the No More Symposium from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Bluu Auditorium on the TCU campus. Dr. Powderly will discuss anxiety, social media and bullying.

Dr. Powderly is encouraged by the updated guidelines by the AAP and says 12 years old is the right age to begin checking for depression on a regular basis.

“The data I’ve been tracking as a hospitalist shows the average age of kids admitted to the hospital for suicide attempts is 14.4 so that is a good age,” Dr. Powdery said. “On average, the hospitalist service (at Cook Children’s) has admitted a child with a suicide attempt every 2 days for the last 3 years. The Symposium focuses on the multifactorial nature of anxiety, stress, suicide and how they relate. More importantly, it gives parents and the community at large tools and ideas to handle this growing problem.”

Vanessa Charette, M.D., shares an office with Dr. Powderly. She said at Magnolia, the physicians already screen every child at well-child checkup ages age 12 and up for depression.

“I have found it is a good way to signal to kids and parents that we are open to talk about this and want them to ask us about it,” Dr. Charette said. “Even if on the well check nothing comes up, often a parent will return with the teen later wanting to talk about anxiety and depression. I believe the screen helps open that door and the conversation. I also find for teens that are not having any signs of depression/anxiety and wonder why they are doing the screen it still opens a conversation. I then talk about how it is great that they are doing well but that many kids are not. Parents appreciate this – it helps open why some other kids might be depressed, what can be done to prevent it and helps with empathy for others.”

Justin Smith, M.D., a Cook Children’s pediatrician in Trophy Club and a member of the executive committee for communications and media with the AAP, said new guidelines are important for three reasons:

  1. Screening helps to pick up teens who would have otherwise been missed. Signs and symptoms of depression are sometimes seen in kids who might have surprised you.
  2. Sometimes children are aware of symptoms that they are feeling that they don’t associate with depression. Asking them direct questions will sometimes highlight a feeling that they have had and give them the opportunity to discuss it.
  3. Talking about mental health on a regular basis normalizes the conversation. Even if the child isn’t experiencing problems right now, they begin to learn that our offices are a safe place to discuss their feelings.

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