The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) — an independent panel of volunteers with particular expertise in disease prevention and evidence-based medicine — recently announced recommendations to screen children and teenagers for anxiety and depression.
In a special bulletin, the task force suggests asking doctors to conduct anxiety screenings for children ages 8 and older and depression screenings for children ages 12 and older.
The USPSTF notes that screenings should provide parents information on anxiety-related symptoms to help them better recognize any signs in their child. Treatment options should also be offered to children who are diagnosed with anxiety or depression.
Cerebral Palsy and Mental Health
Mental health screenings are especially important for children who have been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, as they may require additional emotional care.
In fact, scientific research studies published in recent years have found links between cerebral palsy and depression as well as cerebral palsy and anxiety.
One in five individuals with cerebral palsy experience depression, and about 16% experience anxiety disorders.
These increased rates of depression and anxiety could be caused by various factors related to living with cerebral palsy, including isolation from peers, lack of access to disability accommodations, and a struggle to regulate their emotions while in pain.
What Are Anxiety and Depression?
Although national conversations focusing on mental health issues such as anxiety and depression seem to be more common than ever before, their definitions may not be completely understood by everyone.
Learn more about anxiety and depression below.
Anxiety can be a component in a variety of diagnoses, such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder. It is characterized by excessive fear, tension, and worry. People with anxiety often experience repeated intrusive concerns or thoughts.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), anxiety can be manifested in distinct physical ways, including:
- Increased blood pressure
They may also display behavioral changes, such as avoiding certain places or people because they are scared of what will happen during an encounter. Some people with anxiety may completely isolate themselves from peers and loved ones, which can contribute to feelings of depression.
Depression (Major Depressive Disorder)
The APA explains that depression, which is clinically referred to as major depressive disorder, is a common, serious, and treatable disorder characterized by feelings of intense sadness.
With a substantial impact on behavior and internal thoughts, depression often significantly reduces an individual’s interest in the activities they once enjoyed. If left untreated, depression at a young age may lead to suicidal thoughts, also clinically described as as suicidal ideation, as an adolescent.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide can affect people of all ages. In fact, in 2020 suicide was the second most common cause of death for individuals between the ages of 10–14 and 25–34.
Statistics on Anxiety and Depression in Children and Teens
Currently affecting countless children, anxiety and depression appears to be increasing.
A 2020 study found 12% of children in the United States between the ages of 3 and 17 had expressed symptoms of anxiety and depression — a noticeable shift from the 9.4% reported by the CDCfrom 2016–2019.
Another recent study suggests that the number of children experiencing these mental health issues may have doubled since the beginning of the global coronavirus pandemic in spring 2020. The study also found that anxiety was more common in girls, while depression was more common among older children.
Help and Healing: Seeking Treatment for Anxiety and Depression
For children and teenagers who seem to be experiencing anxiety and depression based on their screenings, the USPSTF recommends additional assessments by mental health care professionals for an official diagnosis.
The USPSTF further notes that these screenings, when combined with follow-up treatments as needed, can resolve anxiety and reduce depression symptoms.
By connecting with a counselor, psychologist, or therapist, children with anxiety and depression can get treatment to help them manage their symptoms and reduce stress. A qualified mental health professional is best equipped to identify the right treatment(s) for each child’s unique circumstances.
If your child is showing signs of anxiety or depression related to a birth injury, contact our team of nurse advocates. We can connect you with resources to help your child receive the help and support they need.