American Academy of Pediatrics sets new guidelines for mental health screenings

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, one in five children in the United States suffers from a mental health disorder.

That's why new guidelines have been set, recommending pediatricians, the doctors kids see most, conduct mental health screenings.

"The new guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics are to start screening all teenagers, 12 and above, in the pediatric offices every year," Board Certified Pediatrician Dr. Rubina Azam said.

Dr. Azam says at her office, they've been doing the screenings for years, but the first step is recognizing the signs at home.

"Parents need to be involved in their kids' life, they need to know what's going on and if they notice that kids are acting different than what they normally do and it's lasting two weeks or longer, they need to bring it to our attention," Azam said.

Local child, adult, and family psychologist Dr. Brent Decker says other signs could be spotted at school.

"If your child is having low school grades, if the child is having low self-esteem, if the child is reporting they've been bullied or abused by other kids or talk about wanting to seek revenge, these are all very dangerous and potentially contributing factors to the child being violent and if these factors are being shown, it's encouraging for the parents to contact local mental health professionals," Decker said.

That's where the screenings come in.

According to Dr. Azam they will be in the form of written questions where teens will let doctors know if they're feeling sad, if they're sleeping okay, if their appetite is normal, and more. Pediatricians will then turn answers into treatment and hopefully into success.

Dr. Azam says if any symptoms of depression are spotted, she recommends lifestyle changes, an increase in physical activity, and counseling.