*The following is excerpted from an online article posted by HealthDay.
Schools could provide solutions for kids who are grappling with depression, a new study suggests.
Students who have school-based depression screening are twice as likely to begin treatment as peers who don’t get that service, researchers say.
“Our study is publishing at a time when more adolescents are reporting symptoms of depression,” said principal investigator Dr. Deepa Sekhar, a pediatrician at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital and an associate professor of pediatrics at Penn State College of Medicine.
The three-year study included nearly 13,000 students from 14 public high schools in Pennsylvania. They were from both rural and urban school districts, many were from poor families and they were predominantly from minority groups.
Researchers randomly assigned two of the four high school grades to screening for depressive symptoms through a questionnaire. Students in the other two grades were not screened or offered support unless they were flagged for concerning behavior and treated through the state-mandated Student Assistance Program.
The school-based screening increased both identification and treatment for adolescent depression, according to the study.
Students who received universal screening were twice as likely to initiate treatment, the research team found.
Fewer than half of U.S. adolescents ages 12 to 18 have regular doctor checkups, so relying on those appointments for screening depression isn’t effective, the researchers noted. Even those who do see a physician aren’t always screened for depression, despite a recommendation from the U.S. Prevention Services Task Force, according to the study.
Most kids and teens are enrolled in public education, Sekhar said. Just as screening is done for vision and hearing to identify barriers to student academic success, screening and treating depression can also help students, she said.
The researchers published their findings in JAMA Network Open.