New guidelines published to help recognize, treat teen depression

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – New guidelines released by the American Academy of Pediatrics could help save lives in Western New York. The AAP just published updated advice for pediatricians and family doctors to help recognize and treat depression among teenagers.

Dr. Michael Cummings, associate medical director for ECMC and vice chair of psychiatry at the University at Buffalo, told News 4 he welcomed the new recommendations.

“Suicide is the second leading cause of death in this age group now. Ten to 14 year olds have the same likelihood of dying in a car accident as they do by suicide. So it really is something that needs to be in the forefront of what we’re doing in all our healthcare locations,” Dr. Cummings said.

MORE | Click here to learn more about the AAP’s new guidelines.

The new guidelines from the AAP represent the first comprehensive update for doctors when it comes to teen depression in a decade. Dr. Cummings says a lot has changed over the last ten years.

“The rate of suicide has gone up in the 10 to 14 population astronomically from 2006. While we don’t really know what causes that, it aligns directly with social media, and the pressures that teens, particularly female teens, go through is astronomical compared to a generation ago,” Dr. Cummings explained.

The statistics are alarming.

Research shows that only 50% of adolescents with depression are diagnosed before reaching adulthood, according to part one of the AAP’s Guidelines for Adolescent Depression in Primary Care. Further, the AAP says, as many as two in three youth with depression are not identified by their Primary Care clinicians and fail to receive any kind of care, and ven when diagnosed by primary care providers, only half of these patients are treated appropriately.

3,400 teenagers attempt suicide every day, Dr. Cummings said.

“Four out of five of those teens have clear warning signs,” he said. “Social withdrawal, loss of friends, stop doing things they used to enjoy, medical complaints, refusal of school, substance abuse, etc. etc. Those signs are there, and so there’s an ability to reach out to healthcare providers primary care providers.”

Dr. Cummings says the new guidelines from the AAP can make a difference for teens and their families when it comes to mental health.

Among other recommendations, the AAP is calling for doctors to talk with parents about warning signs and symptoms, and to talk with adolescents individually, in case the teen does not feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings in front of mom or dad.

One of the biggest new guidelines is a call for universal depression screenings for all patients age 12 and up.

“Major depression and suicide in that age group is really growing to epidemic proportions, and it goes largely untreated, so screening in primary care is quite appropriate at this point,” Dr. Cummings said.

MORE | If you or someone you love is dealing with a mental health issue, help is available. Click here for a list of local resources, including crisis hotlines.

Dr. Cummings admitted there are challenges with enacting some of the AAP’s recommendations, but said he hopes insurance will cover the screenings to make it easier for all adolescents to get screened.

“We also have to live with the reality that a medical well visit is a relatively short visit,” Dr. Cummings added, “and pediatricians and family doctors are asked to do a tremendous amount during that, but when talk about behavioral health, when we talk about depression in teens, when we talk about suicide, it really is at the level of a national emergency.”

More than a dozen local agencies are working together now to help end the stigma around mental health, with the hope that people dealing with mental health challenges will know they are not alone, help is available and recovery is possible. Click here to learn more about the Erie County Anti-Stigma Coalition 

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