The US Preventive Services Task Force is out with a draft of its new guidelines, which are open to public comment before likely being finalized later this year, and one headline-grabbing recommendation states that all children ages 8 and up should be screened for anxiety. Kids who have anxiety that does not cause problems at school or home can "slip through the cracks," says one psychologist who is not on the task force, and the COVID-19 pandemic has likely made that situation even worse. Childhood anxiety disorders are linked to depression, substance abuse, and other problems later in life. The new guidelines from the task force call for medical providers to screen for anxiety, likely using a survey or questionnaire, even if no signs or symptoms have been discussed with the provider, the New York Times reports.
The new guidelines still recommend all children ages 12 and up be screened for depression. However, the task force said there is not enough evidence to suggest routine screening for suicide risk in kids who show no warning signs, the AP reports. One task force member says asking kids whether they've considered suicide, even if they have no obvious sign of having done so, could cause unnecessary anxiety. But parents who've lost children to suicide—which was, in 2020, the second-leading cause of death for ages 10 to 14—are speaking out, and experts are saying it's a misconception to worry that bringing up the topic with non-suicidal kids will plant the idea in their brains. "This report may actually set the field back," says a doctor affiliated with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, which, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommends routine screening for all kids 12 and up. (Read more anxiety stories.)