Government experts say children as young as 8 should be screened for anxiety due to the impact of the two-year coronavirus pandemic on their mental health.
The draft guidelines, published by the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), also recommend that children between the ages of 12 and 18 be screened for major depressive disorder.
The task force recommends screening for MDD — defined as two weeks of mild to severe persistent feelings of sadness or lack of interest in daily activities — in all adolescents, but notes that several risk factors could help identify higher risk patients.
These include a combination of genetic, biological, and environmental factors, such as a family history of depression, a previous episode of depression, and other mental health or behavioral issues.
He added that other psychosocial risk factors can also cause depression, including childhood abuse or neglect, exposure to traumatic events, bullying, adverse life events, exposure early on to stress, abuse and a precarious parental relationship.
Dr. Bradley Klontz, associate professor of financial psychology and behavioral finance at Creighton University Heider College of Business in Omaha, Nebraska, told China Daily: “The more this [pandemic] the higher the risk of long-term damage.”
Klontz thinks the toll of the pandemic, especially on children, won’t be felt for some time. He said the social isolation caused by social distancing at the start of the pandemic was worse for those with social disorders or mental health issues, as they had to be alone for long periods.
The pandemic may have exacerbated depression among young people, but even before the pandemic began in 2020, more children and adolescents in the United States were identified with mental health disorders or had poor mental health. , according to research.
The percentage of children aged 6 to 17 who had been diagnosed with anxiety or depression rose from 5.4% in 2003 to 8.4% in 2011 and 2012, according to a study published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.
Michi Fu, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles who specializes in working with Asian American children, women and families, says the impact of the coronavirus has turned people’s lives upside down every day and many didn’t know how to cope.
“They [my patients] saying to me, ‘I don’t know what to do with myself, I don’t know what to do with my children,'” Fu told China Daily.
“First of all, if someone is really hurting, ask for help. Don’t isolate yourself. Make sure you have at least one person you can report to frequently if needed,” he said. she stated.
Thousands of children in the United States have lost their parents, guardians and friends amid the pandemic, adding to their stress levels.
Parents and some teachers believe that remote learning for nearly two years has also caused problems because school is where children have interpersonal relationships crucial for development.
In a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey of 7,700 college students in the first six months of 2021, it found that more than one in three high school students said they had poor mental health during the pandemic until June 2021.
At least 20% of those interviewed for the survey admitted to having seriously considered attempting suicide in the 12 months preceding the survey. A further 44% said they continually felt sad or hopeless in the 12 months prior to the survey.
The USPSTF recommends that the best treatment options for MDD in children and adolescents include pharmacotherapy, psychotherapy, collaborative care, psychosocial support interventions, and complementary and alternative medicine approaches.
For children and teens with depression, cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy are effective.
Additionally, the USPSTF said fluoxetine is the only drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat MDD in children 8 years of age or older and escitalopram is approved for treat MDD in adolescents aged 12 to 17 years.
Many doctors in the United States agree with the guidelines set forth by the USPSTF. In its survey of physicians, the USPSTF found that 76% of physicians believe they should talk to teenage patients about mental health.