Experts Say Anxiety Screening Should Begin at 8 and Continue into Adulthood

In an unprecedented move, the USPSTF has proposed that anxiety screening should begin at 8 and continue into adulthood, becoming the first federal agency to advocate for routine anxiety tests for individuals under 65. While these screening recommendations are yet to be finalized, they are inclusive of both pregnant and postpartum women.

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), which is an independent group of doctors and people who work to prevent disease and make recommendations that are generally followed in the healthcare field, says that anxiety is marked by a longer or stronger stress response to everyday events.

According to Taish Malone, Ph.D., a licensed professional counselor with Mindpath Health, “This is significant because it will shift the medical profession from seeing health beyond the body and includes a psychological and even social aspect.”

The revised recommendations are consistent with the 2016 recommendation for screening adults for major depressive disorder. It’s also the group’s most recent suggestion concerning mental health screening. The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) suggested in April that children aged 8 and up be evaluated for anxiety and those aged 12 and up be screened for depression.

The Value of Preventative Care in Mental Health

The most recent recommendations from the panel mention a study from 2007 that revealed the median age at which anxiety treatment was initiated was 23.

Teodora Pavkovic, a youth psychologist and the head of community involvement at Linewize says, “As with any health issue, the sooner we identify it, the sooner we can treat it and help the individual who is struggling.”

Although the recommendations were developed before the epidemic, the international health crisis prompted a reevaluation of mental health services. Earlier this year, the World Health Organization published a paper claiming that COVID increased rates of anxiety and despair by 25%. More than 76 million cases of anxiety and 53 million of major depressive disorder were also attributed to the pandemic, according to a study conducted in 2021. Dr. Vivek Murthy, the United States Surgeon General, issued a warning about the mental health crisis among young people at the end of last year, saying that it was made worse by the pandemic.

Overall, it appears that more people need assistance with their mental health, and screening can help detect signs of anxiety and depression in both children and adults. The effects of an adult patient’s treatment, such as psychotherapy or medication, can extend to their loved ones.

“Children often mimic and learn from parents,” said The Healing Point Therapy & Wellness CEO and founder Cherise Small, LCSW. If parents with anxiety are identified and given the help they need, their children will see positive examples of how to handle stressful situations.

Disparities in Mental Health

Disparities in mental health, however, predated even the pandemic. From 2014 to 2019, there was a 30% increase in the Black American suicide rate. At least one study suggests that apprehension about racial discrimination contributes to the discrepancy between the prevalence of emotional distress symptoms among persons of color and their willingness to seek care.

Some of the structural barriers that people of color and indigenous people confront while seeking medical care could be alleviated if anxiety screening was routinely performed on all patients. Without passing judgment, this screening can link communities to their required resources.

However, there is a scarcity of therapists, and many people, of all races, are having trouble finding one.

“As a result of the pandemic,” Ernesto Lira de la Rosa, Ph.D., a psychologist and media advisor for the Hope for Depression Research Foundation, explains. This bodes well for the future. However, it is common knowledge that the mental health industry cannot meet the surging demand for its services.

If you are having problems locating a therapist, Dr. de la Rosa recommends consulting a medical professional about the possibility of group therapy. Learning about oneself and having peers’ emotional and social support are two of the main benefits of participating in group therapy.

According to Pavkovic, people can also use mental health helplines to locate other sources of care, such as group or individual treatment.

Acceptance of Mental Health Problems

Until October 17th, the public can provide feedback on the USPSTF recommendations before the task force votes on whether or not to make them official.

Dr. Malone thinks it would be a good idea to pass it, as it could help us in the long run.

Teaching kids that taking care of their mental health is just as important as their physical health is a taught behavior that can help them develop a healthy appreciation for both fields.

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