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Depression Screening Could Start as Early as Second Grade

In some reports, depression has been called the most “over diagnosed” disease in this country. In others, it is still considered to be a mental health issue largely undetermined in a number of individuals due to lack of symptoms or other contributing factors. Practitioners are trying to better implement depression screening, but exactly when to introduce the process can still be somewhat questionable.

Now, Science Daily has released a report examining new research that suggests screening could begin in children much earlier than previously thought. As depression is the most common mental health disorder in the United States, screening early and effectively is critical for an individual’s wellbeing.

A University of Washington study suggests that screening can begin as early as second grade. In following 1,000 children from the second to the eighth grades, researchers found five distinct patterns for the way in which symptoms of depression develop among adolescents.

“Some children are reporting that they don’t have as many friends, feel lonelier and are more anxious than their peers,” said James Mazza, in Science Daily. Mazza is a UW professor of educational psychology and lead author of the study. “They are telling us that they feel different from the typical happy- go-lucky second grader.

Mazza noted that it is possible to start to build a profile of a child’s mental health in the second grade. This early detection and understanding of a child’s mental state could help to reduce the risk for mental health concerns during adolescence. Researchers are trying to gain a better understanding of how actual depression – and not merely feeling sad – starts and evolves in childhood in order to develop effective interventions.

“Our children are our best resource in knowing what they are feeling inside. But it is also important to have multiple perspectives. Collecting assessments from parents, teachers and the child to identify children at early risk for depression is a good method for spotting those who may go on to have later mental health risks,” Mazza said.

There is still hope.

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