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Surprising Science

Screening Teens for Mental Illness

Screening teenagers for mental illness should become routine in doctors’ offices nationwide as a part of preventative care, experts from the nonprofit program TeenScreen have said.

What’s the Latest Development?

Under the federal healthcare reform legislation, mental-health screening is listed as a free, preventive-care service and independent groups are looking to extend the reach of such screenings. “So far, about 1,500 primary-care doctors nationwide are offering the screening—usually a short list of questions. However, many doctors may be reluctant to implement screening due to the time it takes, because they won’t be reimbursed for the service or because they lack knowledge on how to implement a screening program, experts said.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Are mental illnesses over-diagnosed in the U.S. or are they simply noticed too late? Could adult mental health problems be avoided by screening teens? “The need to address mental illness in children and teens is clear, said Christina Carro Newport, program manager of the TeenScreen National Center at Columbia University. About 11% of children and teens have mental illness that causes impairment, but only a small percentage are diagnosed and receive treatment. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for children age 11 to 18.”


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