TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — One in five children suffers from depression, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
In response, legislators in New Jersey are trying to pass a bill that would require students from the seventh grade through high school are tested for depression at least once a year.
Leighann Shingelo, of Mahwah, says her family was recently touched by the debilitating mental illness.
“My daughter’s friend did commit suicide at 14,” she said. “Kids do go through a lot with something like that happens. So anything that can bring you a little more attention to the situation or help these kids to understand, as well as be proactive about it, I think that’s great.”
The bill is sponsored by Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D-7th), and calls for a public school nurse or physician to administer the annual screening which would include a hand-written questionnaire.
“Depressed people don’t do well in school,” Conaway said. “Depressed people have a tendency to commit suicide. And by early recognition, early intervention we can change that horizon.”
The confidential results would be shared with the child’s parents, but would not be considered a full-on diagnosis.
Parents would then be encouraged to share the results with the student’s primary care physician.
Conaway, concerned with the rise in youth suicides, says the bill follows the AAP’s recommendation that children starting at 12-years-old be screened for depression annually. The organization supports the legislation, but says the work to combat depression can’t stop after screening.
“It’s really useless if you just diagnose somebody with a mental illness or depression, unless you can provide them with the care you really have anything to help that situation,” Dr. Puthenmadam Radhakrishnan from AAP said.
If the bill is passed, the hope is that a network of mental health resources will be created to provide the help a suffering child needs. Students would be able to opt out of the test with a parents’ consent.