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Mental and behavioral health

Responding to the US Preventive Services Task Force recommendations on screening for depression and suicide risk in children and adolescents

APA calls for more research on interventions for children and adolescents and to make behavioral health services more widely available.

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American Psychological Association. (2022, May 14). Responding to the US Preventive Services Task Force recommendations on screening for depression and suicide risk in children and adolescents. https://www.apaservices.org/advocacy/news/preventive-depression-suicide-children-adolescents

Teen girl meeting with a psychologist

On May 9, APA responded to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) draft recommendation statement on “Screening for Depression and Suicide Risk in Children and Adolescents.” The agency’s draft statement recommends screening for major depressive disorder (MDD) in adolescents ages 12 to 18, but concluded that current evidence is insufficient to recommend screening for suicide risk in asymptomatic children and adolescents, and for MDD in asymptomatic children age 11 or younger. In the response, APA strongly urges the USPSTF to modify their report (PDF, 149KB) to include more evidence-based content from the commissioned systematic review in order for those findings to play a role in shaping a national response to the current emergency in children and youth mental health.

There is an urgent need for furthering the growing evidence base on the efficacy of interventions and other tools for depression and suicide risk assessment and treatment. The mental health crisis is particularly acute among children and adolescents, which prompted the U.S. surgeon general to call for a national response to the mental health challenges facing children and adolescents. Black and Latino youth are particularly impacted, and in its response, APA urges the USPSTF to address the concerning trends in suicidal behavior and mortality among all underserved populations.

In responding to this national crisis, APA is working to strike a balance between furthering the evidence base on screenings and improving the identification of at-risk children and youth, and the delivery of mental and behavioral health services in primary care settings.

There has never been a more urgent time for implementing effective suicide prevention initiatives, and leading health policy organizations are responding. The USPSTF should play an active role in shaping a national dialogue around depression and suicide risk screening by disseminating tools and resources, including those from Bright Futures, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, which all recommend universal pediatric suicide screening starting at age 12.

APA will continue to work with these and other stakeholders to improve the detection of mental and behavioral health conditions and pathways to ameliorate them. The association will work with Congress as they prepare mental and behavioral health legislation to address this national crisis.

For more information, contact Julio C. Abreu.