What Your Doctor Must Do at Your Teen's Next Check-Up

Your teen’s next check-up could save his or her life, but not in a way that you’d think. 

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Since moodiness, fluctuating sleeping schedules, and varying eating habits are perceived to be the norm among teens, most adults tend to overlook the fact that these symptoms may equate to much more than a side effect of growing up. In reality, this behavior can indicate depression (and further, suicidal thoughts) and deserve more careful, professional attention.

According to new research from the University of Texas at Arlington and Texas Woman’s University, a basic psychosocial evaluation and mental health screening can act as paramount measures in detecting risk of depression and suicide in teenagers. 

The study—conducted by Sharolyn K. Dihigo, R.N., D.N.P., and Barbara Gray, Ph.D., R.N.—says that 80 percent of teens see a doctor at least once per year for a routine check-up. But paired with the World Health Organization’s finding that depression ranks as the No. 1 cause of illness and disability in teens, and suicide sits as the third most common cause of adolescent deaths, it certainly seems worth it for doctors to start having quick mental health chats with their teen patients. The researchers also suggested that doctors administer patient health questionnaires. 

Dihigo hopes that she and her partner will be able to decrease the teen suicide rate with their findings:

We are trying to get the word out and educate other healthcare providers to recognize the signs of depression and intervene to prevent these suicides.

For more information, check out our list of suicide prevention resources and true teen stories about depression. There's also a mental health section on Choices' new list of the 33 best online resources for teen health.