Youth suicide screening to call attention to mental heath


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(WWLP) – An influential US group is raising doubts about routine suicide screening for children and teens even as others call for urgent attention to youth mental health.

The US Preventive Services Task Force said there’s not enough evidence to recommend routine screening for children that show no obvious signs of being suicidal.

According to the CDC, data from 2021 showed 37% of high school students experienced mental health during the pandemic, 44% felt sad or hopeless.

“These data echo a cry for help,” said CDC Acting Principal Deputy Director Debra Houry, M.D., M.P.H. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created traumatic stressors that have the potential to further erode students’ mental wellbeing. Our research shows that surrounding youth with the proper support can reverse these trends and help our youth now and in the future.”

“School connectedness is a key to addressing youth adversities at all times – especially during times of severe disruptions,” said Kathleen A. Ethier, PhD, Director of CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health. “Students need our support now more than ever, whether by making sure that their schools are inclusive and safe or by providing opportunities to engage in their communities and be mentored by supportive adults.”

School connectedness provided critical protection for students during COVID-19 to make students feel cared for, supported, and welcomed.

School connectedness outcome from CDC:

  • Youth who felt connected to adults and peers at school that were less likely than those who did not to report persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness (35% vs. 53%)
  • Considered attempting suicide (14% vs. 26%)
  • Attempted suicide (6% vs. 12%)
  • Fewer than half (47%) of youth reported feeling close to people at school during the pandemic

“In the face of adversity, support from schools, families, and communities protects adolescents from potentially devastating consequences,” said Jonathan Mermin, M.D., director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, CDC’s lead Center for monitoring and addressing school-based health.

A document released from the US Preventive Services Task Force is open for public comment until May 9th, to help the task force decide whether screening for depression and suicide risk should be conducted or not.

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