HealthDay News — Universal school-based major depressive disorder (MDD) screening increases identification of adolescents with MDD symptoms and initiation of treatment, according to a study published online Nov. 5 in JAMA Network Open.
Deepa L. Sekhar, M.D., from the Pennsylvania State College of Medicine in Hershey, and colleagues examined the effectiveness of universal adolescent MDD screening in the school setting in a randomized clinical trial involving 12,909 students. The usual school practice of targeted or selected screening based on observable behaviors of concern was compared with universal screening (6,436 and 6,473 students, respectively). Students with behaviors prompting concern for MDD in the targeted screening were referred to the Student Assistance Program (SAP), as were students with positive scores on the Patient Health Questionnaire-9, completed by all students in universal screening.
The researchers found that the odds of being identified with MDD symptoms were 5.92 times higher for adolescents in the universal screening group; they also had 3.30 times higher odds of SAP confirming follow-up needs and 2.07 times higher odds of initiating MDD treatment. There were no differences observed in subgroup analyses by sex or race and ethnicity.
“The study demonstrated that universal screening has added benefits over existing school practice for identifying and connecting adolescents to needed mental health services,” write the authors of an accompanying editorial. “Universal screening was particularly effective at detecting depression in adolescents who are traditionally underdiagnosed.”
Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.