Mental Illness Screenings Urged for All Youngsters

A leading psychiatric researcher has urged routine screenings for children as young as 10 to fight the epidemic of serious mental illnesses, including substance abuse and anxiety disorders.

Thursday February 1st - 11:51am

To fight an epidemic of mental health problems among teenagers, all children should be screened for mental illness starting as early as age 10, says a prominent psychiatric researcher, Richard Friedman, M.D., professor of clinical psychiatry at Cornell University’s Weill Medical College in New York City.

“Half of all serious adult psychiatric illnesses—including major depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse—start by 14 years of age, and three-fourths of them are present by 25 years of age,” Dr. Friedman wrote in the December 28, 2006 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. “Yet the majority of mental illness in young people goes unrecognized and untreated, leaving them vulnerable to emotional, social, and academic impairments during a critical phase of their lives. Even those who receive treatment tend to do so only after a long delay.”

Dr. Friedman praised TeenScreen (, a school-based screening program, developed by Columbia University, that is used in 43 states, Canada, and South Korea.

“It is accepted medical practice for teenagers to get frequent physical checkups, even though the odds of finding a serious physical disease in this population are very small,” wrote Dr. Friedman. “In contrast, the chance that a teen has a treatable psychiatric illness is nearly 21 percent. How can we not routinely screen young people for mental illness when it is such an important cause of suffering and death?”

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