A report from a government medical panel says that depression is so common among teenagers that they should all be checked out for symptoms once a year. Which government — Bulgaria? Palestine? Zimbabwe? No, no and no. It’s the United States that has nearly two million teenagers affected by depression, according to the US Preventive Task Force. And an estimated six per cent of them are clinically depressed. Why? Well, the committee would say because the signs are not being picked up early enough and treatment provided. Their brief does not seem to reach beyond that to underlying causes.

So the remedy they recommend is screening — routine administration of a questionnaire by a family doctor or paediatrician who can then follow up with treatment or referral. The questionnaires would focus on depression tip-offs relating to mood, anxiety, appetite and substance abuse. The task force does not want this to lead to drug treatment alone (which is all a family doctor can do, but can lead to worse problems) so it says routine depression testing should only occur if psychotherapy is also available.

If this begins to sound like lots more jobs for the boys and girls in the medical profession, it does not necessarily mean there is no epidemic of depression among adolescents to be dealt with. A really useful task force, however, would be able to identify possible sources of all this misery among young people living in one of the most privileged countries in the world, the current recession notwithstanding. ~ AP/Yahoo, Mar 30

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet