Final recommendation on screening for depression in children and adolescents

Recommendation could help psychologists collaborate with pediatricians.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force published a final recommendation statement Feb. 8 on screening for major depressive disorder (MDD) in children and adolescents. The American Psychological Association is a partner of the task force, and has previously submitted comments advocating for the inclusion of psychological services in recommendation statements, such as tobacco cessation.

The task force recommended screening adolescents ages 12 to 18 for MDD. Screening should be implemented with adequate systems in place to ensure accurate diagnosis, effective treatment and appropriate follow-up. The task force found that there was not enough evidence to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening for MDD in children 11 years old and younger, and calls for more research on screening for and treating depression in this age group.

MDD is a serious form of depression that can affect a young person’s performance at school or work and their interactions with family and friends. MDD in youth often goes undiagnosed, and is associated with an increased risk of suicide and depression in adulthood.

“This recommendation could help psychologists start conversations with pediatricians and primary care physicians in their area about partnering to assist with screening and brief interventions or referrals for depression treatment,” says Associate Executive Director for Practice Research and Policy Lynn Bufka, PhD.

The task force’s recommendation has been published online in the Annals of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, as well as on the task force website. A fact sheet that explains the recommendation statement in plain language is also available. A draft version of this recommendation was available for public comment in September 2015.

The task force is an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine that works to improve the health of all Americans by making evidence-based recommendations about clinical preventive services such as screenings, counseling services and preventive medications.