Lee County experts, parents recommend screening children ages 8 to 18 for anxiety

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It has been a stressful two years for our children, and now health experts say you should consider screening kids as young as 8 years old for anxiety.

Jeanne Beaulieu says her daughter tried to commit suicide in her middle school’s bathroom. Needless to say, Beaulieu is all for anxiety screenings in children, because sometimes the signs can manifest as early as kindergarten. Beaulieu says she remembers hearing her daughter’s friends talk about anxiety and having anxiety attacks in third and fourth grade, so hearing that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends children from 8 to 18 should be screened for anxiety is news she’s waited a long time to hear.

Beaulieu says these screenings would be extremely beneficial, but only if primary care physicians also get the educational tools necessary to know how they can effectively help children after they have been screened.

“If I were more honest with myself, back in third grade, when those girls were having that conversation, should have been the first time that she took that test and got that score,” Beaulieu said. “If you’re having those conversations with girlfriends at that age, there’s already a problem.”

The screenings will have to be done in a way that produces accurate results. It has to be considered whether or not a child feels comfortable enough to be truthful if their parent is still in the room while the child is being screened. Different forms may be better screening tools for some specific children than for others.

Maribeth Lichty, a licensed social worker at the Marriage & Family Center, located at 5237 Summerlin Commons Blvd. in Fort Myers, says any kind of screening that detects something like anxiety early on is great—the earlier you can detect it, the earlier it can be treated.

“I see a lot of people that come in to me as adults in their 20s and 30s,” Lichty said. “And one of the first questions I asked them with depression, anxiety, trauma is, ‘How long have you been feeling these things?’ And, oftentimes, the answer is, ‘My whole life, as long as I can remember.’ And so why not catch it early?”

These draft recommendations by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force are open for public comments until May 9. The final recommendations will likely be released by the end of 2022.

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