Apr 13, 2022 - Health

Task force recommends against routine suicide screening for kids

Illustration of someone holding up a lamp in the darkness with a glowing brain inside
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A federal task force on Tuesday recommended against routine suicide screening for children and adolescents, saying more research is needed to assess if it could be harmful.

Why it matters: Suicide was the second leading cause of death for ages 10–14 in 2020, according to the CDC, and studies have shown many youths who take their lives have contact with the health care system not long before their deaths.

What they're saying: The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said there's not enough evidence to back routine screening in doctors' offices of kids who don't show signs of being suicidal.

  • The expert panel said questions surrounding the design of screening tests and false positives could cause needless concern about kids' mental health and stigma.
  • The draft recommendations call for depression screening in adolescents ages 12–18, as well as anxiety screening.
  • The task force's recommendations influence how primary and preventive care is delivered, along with which services are covered by insurance.

The other side: The American Academy of Pediatrics in March recommended screening for youths ages 12 and up, citing rising instances of suicide and suicidal thoughts that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • HHS in December updated Affordable Care Act preventive care guidelines to add universal screening for suicide risk for individuals ages 12–21.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: dial 711 then 1-800-273-8255) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

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