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Rady Children's Hospital sees surge in children with anxiety & depression

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Posted at 2:57 PM, Apr 20, 2022

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - For the first time, it's being recommended that kids ages eight and older be screened for anxiety and kids ages 12 and older be screened for depression. That's according to the U.S Preventative Services Task Force, an independent volunteer panel of national experts.

The Task Force found that screening and providing follow-up care for older kids and teens can reduce symptoms of depression and potentially resolve anxiety.

"If we can catch the kids early, we know that the treatments can work and help," said psychiatrist Dr. Will Connor with Rady Children's Hospital. He added, "The number of kids in our emergency room has skyrocketed over the last few years. Sometimes almost fifty percent of the kids in the [Emergency Department] are there for mental health issues, mostly suicidality, self-injury [and] things like that."

According to spokesperson Carlos Delgado with Rady Children's Hospital, before the pandemic, about 200 kids were being seen each month for mental health issues. That number has now doubled, and younger kids are coming in, he added.

Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the global prevalence of depression and anxiety in kids and teens had doubled during COVID-19.

Dr. Connor explained that anxiety can often be easier to spot than depression. "Depression sometimes gets missed a lot in the younger kids because it can present not with the sadness, but more crankiness and [irritability] and a lot of parents just don't comprehend the idea of [why their kid could be sad]," he added.

The Task Force also reports that there's still not enough evidence to know whether it's beneficial to screen much younger kids for depression and anxiety, and all youth for suicide risk. It states that more research is critical.