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May 09, 2014 05:37 PM EDT

A Quick Test May Be Able To Spot Depressed Teens

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A simple, quick test may be able to spot depressed teenagers, according to a recent study.

A nursing researcher from the University of Texas at Arlington found that a few minutes spent filling out CES-DC, a widely accepted mental health assessment in a health care provider's waiting room, could make a big difference for some teenagers suffering from depression.

Nationally, it's estimated that five to 20 percent of adolescents suffer from depression, but many don't receive the treatment they need. Both the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and the American Academy of Pediatrics have promoted screening for mental health problems in primary care.

"Getting teens treatment when they need it is essential and has potentially life-saving benefits," Sharolyn Dihigo, a nurse practitioner and clinical assistant professor in the UT Arlington College of Nursing, said in a statement. "Providing this test while a family waits for their appointment can overcome hesitation to talk about the feelings and behaviors linked to depression and lead to treatment success."

CES-DC is short for Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale for Children. It is free and does not require extra training for those who administer the screening. It contains 20 questions about how much children experienced sleeplessness or unhappiness in the past week.

For the study, Dihigo reviewed 14 studies done previously by other researchers. She is also working on a paper describing a pilot project that put these methods into action in her own clinic.

"Dr. Dihigo's systematic review of available evidence has identified a low-cost, simple assessment that she can confidently recommend because she has used it in her clinical practice," Jennifer Gray, interim dean of the UT Arlington College of Nursing, said in a statement. "In combining research and practice, she is doing what we all aspire to do-make a difference in the lives of patients."

The findings were recently published in the journal Women's Healthcare: A Clinical Journal for NPs.

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