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NP researcher finds test to help providers diagnose depression in teens

Thursday June 12, 2014
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A simple 20-question test can help primary care practitioners decide if a teen patient is depressed, suggests a recent study by Sharolyn Dihigo, RN, DNP, a nurse practitioner and clinical assistant professor in the University of Texas at Arlington College of Nursing. The study, which surveyed available evidence, looked at whether nurse practitioners and other primary care providers should include a mental health screening as part of well visits for teenage patients.

According to the study, published in the May edition of the online journal “Woman’s Healthcare: A Clinical Journal for NPs,” a paper test called a Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale for Children could quickly and reliably determine whether a practitioner should refer a teen patient to a mental health specialist.

The free test does not require extra training to administer. The questions ask about how much children or young adults experienced sleepiness or unhappiness in the past week.

National studies estimate between 5% and 20% of adolescents suffer from depression. 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,” Dihigo stated in a university press release about her work. “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.”

Dihigo, who also is interim director of UT Arlington’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program, reviewed 14 studies done previously by other researchers for the study. She currently is 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, PhD, interim dean of the UT Arlington College of Nursing, said in the release.

“In combining research and practice, she is doing what we all aspire to do — make a difference in the lives of patients.”

Access the CES-DC at http://1.usa.gov/1hM8Jlk


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