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Should Teens Be Routinely Screened for Depression?

June 1, 2009

Q. Should teenagers be routinely screened by doctors for depression?

A. Yes, according to a new report from the US Preventive Services Task Force - an independent panel of private-sector experts convened by the government. The panel, whose recommendations are considered the "gold standard" for medical screening, said all 12- to 18-year-olds should fill out standard questionnaires for major depressive disorder, which can be seriously disabling and, in some cases, lead to suicide.

"We pay a lot of attention to physical health, even though the vast majority [of adolescents] are in one of the healthiest periods of life. However, we have never been very good as a nation about checking for mental and emotional problems, yet these are more likely in this age group than physical problems," said Laurie Flynn, executive director of the TeenScreen National Center for Mental Health Checkups at Columbia University. The group has set up mental health screening programs in more than 500 communities nationwide.

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