Behavioral Health Screening Advocated for Teens With Epilepsy

Teen patients with epilepsy experience high levels of depressive symptoms, with 13% requiring behavioral health interventions.

The following article is part of conference coverage from the American Epilepsy Society’s Annual Meeting in New Orleans, LA. The Neurology Advisor’s staff will be reporting breaking news associated with research conducted by leading experts in neurology. Check back for the latest news from AES 2018.

NEW ORLEANS — Teen patients with epilepsy experience high levels of depressive symptoms, with 16% requiring behavioral health interventions, according to research presented at the 72nd Annual Meeting of the American Epilepsy Society, held November 30-December 4, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The Children’s Health Comprehensive Epilepsy Center developed a protocol to evaluate the mental health of teens with epilepsy. The protocol included a collection of demographic data, results from the Patient Health Questionnaire-9, and clinical records, including seizure diagnosis and treatment. 

Investigators then analyzed clinical and behavioral variables to better identify behavioral health concerns, ensure proper referrals to mental health providers, and evaluate the association between epilepsy and depressive symptoms.

Results of screening from the 394 teens (mean age=16 years; 50% boys) indicated 16% had depressive symptoms severe enough to warrant referrals to mental health providers, including 7% with either suicidal ideation or attempts. Nine percent of patients were categorized as having moderate or severe depressive symptoms and needed initiation of behavioral The other 84% were identified as having minimal/mild depressive symptoms. No significant association was found between specific seizure diagnoses and depressive symptom severity.

Related Articles

Additional research is needed to analyze the association between seizure variables, such as frequency and medication used for treatment, and depression severity.

Researchers concluded that the high need for mental health referrals among teens with epilepsy “supports the importance of regularly screening pediatric epilepsy patients for depression” and highlights “the importance of having a behavioral health protocol within an epilepsy clinic.”

For more coverage of AES 2018, click here.


Thomas HM, Suttle L, Morrison K, Arnold ST. Depression screening in pediatric epilepsy. Presented at the 72nd Annual Meeting of the American Epilepsy Society; November 30-December 4, 2018; New Orleans, LA. Abstract 1.388.