June 24, 2022 – With suicide rates among young people rising in recent years, the American Academy of Pediatrics is now recommending adolescents 12 and up be screened for suicide risk as a part of regular preventive care.

The group recently added the recommendation on screening for suicide risk to its depression screening guidelines. Health care providers are urged to ask their young patients a set of questions to identify thoughts and plans for suicide, WDEF.com reported.

“Number one we need to screen for depression and the presence of depression, and those people will usually have a feeling of depressed mood, hopelessness, helplessness, and/or basically a lack of interest in pleasure or anticipation of happiness,” Timothy Fuller, medical director of behavioral health and pediatrics for the American Academy of Pediatrics, told WDEF.

It’s a myth that talking about suicide makes it more likely a person will attempt suicide, he said.

“One of the biggest things you can do, as well, if you do have a child or teenager that has suicidality or that have depression with serious, significant suicide risk, is to just ask them how they’re doing every day,” Fuller said, according to WDEF.

The recommendation comes about 6 months after U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, urged more attention be paid to youth mental health.

“Mental health challenges in children, adolescents, and young adults are real and widespread. Even before the pandemic, an alarming number of young people struggled with feelings of helplessness, depression, and thoughts of suicide – and rates have increased over the past decade,” Murthy said, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Between 2007 and 2018, suicide rates among people ages 10 to 24 in the U.S. went up by 57%, the department said. Estimates showed over 6,600 suicides among this age group in 2020, it said.

Show Sources

American Academy of Pediatrics:  “Preventive Care/Periodicity Schedule.”

WDEF.com: “American Academy of Pediatrics Advocates for Teen Suicide Screening.”

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: “U.S. Surgeon General Issues Advisory on Youth Mental Health Crisis Further Exposed by COVID-19 Pandemic.”

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