Mental Health Screenings of Teens by PCPs Can Prevent Suicides

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Mental health screenings during primary care physician screenings is one way of helping to prevent suicides in teens.

Sharolyn K. Dihigo, RN, DNP,  and Barbara Gray, PhD, RN, of, respectively, University of Texas at Arlington and Texas Woman’s University, reviewed articles, fact sheets, national recommendation statements, and 23 studies done by other researchers.

About 80% of adolescents between the ages of 13 to 18 years old are seen in a primary care setting annually, though providers often miss signs of mental illness. The reason is that many of them mistake signs of depression, such as moodiness, loss of appetite, or sadness, as part of puberty.

Use of screening tools, most of which are free and easy to administer by practitioners, can be an effective way to identify teens at risk for suicide, the researchers write in the journal The Nurse Practitioner. For example, the Patient Health Questionnaire for Adolescents (PHQ-A) assesses for anxiety, substance abuse, mood, or eating disorders. And the Pediatric Symptom Checklist (PSC), or Pediatric Symptom Checklist — Youth Report (Y-PSQ), screens broadly for emotional and behavioral concerns.

Along these lines, advanced planning and preparation can lead to a systematic, effective way to manage patients at risk for suicide.

Mental Health Screenings of Teens by PCPs Can Prevent Suicides
Many primary care practitioners of mistake signs of depression, such as moodiness or loss of appetite, as part of puberty.

A new paper finds that psychosocial assessment and mental health screening of teens during routine health care visits can literally be a life-saver.

Nursing researchers with the University of Texas at Arlington and Texas Woman's University contend that depression and suicide risk screening can assist health care providers in preventing suicides in teens.

Sharolyn K. Dihigo, RN, DNP,  and Barbara Gray, PhD, RN, recently examined available research to determine what screening tools nurse practitioners and others in primary care settings should access during “well” visits with teenage patients.

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