Health Check Kids: Screening for teen depression

New teen depression screening guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics put pediatricians in the forefront. (WJAR)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WJAR) - New teen depression screening guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics put pediatricians in the forefront.

"I was not in a good state," said Delicia D'Amico, going back to her breakdown in December.

"Total meltdown," the 19-year-old said. "My dad had to help me tie my shoes to come in, so that's just to put it into perspective how bad it was."

Her parents took her to her doctor.

"Who do kids go to? They go to their pediatrician," said Dr. Cindy Klipfel, D'Amico's pediatrician. "They have an ongoing relationship with their pediatrician on a regular basis, so we are the first contact a lot of times."

And that's why pediatricians and other primary care providers are being armed with ways to identify and treat mental health issues in their teenage patients.

"These new guidelines open the door for the conversation," said Klipfel.

"If these pediatricians and family practice doctors can catch these kids early on, there are certain interventions that they could do to prevent them from escalating to a more serious impairment," said Dr. Horowitz, a psychiatrist at Bradley Hospital.

"Had the guidelines been in place when she was coming in, then we might've been able to identify it earlier and have the conversation with her earlier and start treatment earlier," said Klipfel.

But now, Klipfel and others are asking patients to fill out a form with 10 detailed mental health questions.

WJAR asked D'Amico's mother to look it over.

"I think we would have seen that there was enough concern in some of these questions to maybe dig a little bit deeper," said Tammy D'Amico.

Beyond the screening, there's another obstacle: access to treatment. There simply are not enough mental health care providers to meet the need.

That's where the Pediatric Psychiatry Resource Network comes in. Horowitz is the director.

"If a pediatrician has a child in their office with a mental health problem and they maybe have a question, which way to go with the child, they could consult with us. We would get back with them within 30 minutes," said Horowitz.

And that's what Klipfel did and was able to put Delicia on the appropriate medication.

"For me to be able to bridge that gap for her has been, I think, helpful for her," said Klipfel.

"I think it's putting me in a space that I can mentally deal with all of my anxiety so that now I'm not as physically worried about everything," said Delicia, who's finally scheduled to see a psychiatrist in April.

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