A Teachable Moment

Former local teacher union pesident Morty Rosenfeld periodically attempts to make sense of the increasingly senseless world of public education.

Getting Serious About Depression

I’ve written before about how I came to the understanding that clinical depression is a significant, under-diagnosed factor in the lives of many adolescents. It’s a factor in at least some of the gun violence that has plagued our public schools. I was heartened to hear on an NPR broadcast this morning that the American College of Pediatrics has published practice guidelines that that call for the yearly screening of adolescents from age twelve on for clinical depression.

Beyond question, pediatricians ought to be on guard for the signs of depression in their patients. But, if we are serious about screening the nation’s adolescents, school is the place to do so if we are to capture the broadest possible population. Such screenings could easily become part of a child’s periodic visit with her guidance counselor. The screening consists of a written questionnaire that is completed quickly and easily compiled. Where the screening instrument indicates clinical depression, most public schools have psychologists on staff that can make contact with the child and her parents to arrange for outside treatment.

Hopefully this call for universal screening of adolescents for depression by the pediatricians will have another effect. Perhaps it will call into more careful questioning the inappropriate pressures we are putting on young people in the name of school reform and raising academic standards. With a lot of leadership and a bit of luck, we may be able to rediscover what we once knew about child development and refashion our school programs for kids as they are rather than what we wish them to be.

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