Mental health experts suggest screening kids as young as 8 for anxiety

With Students In Turmoil, Us Teachers Train In Mental Health
AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

An unidentified student rests on his desk as the Mojave Unified School District Superintendent Katherine Aguirre, center rear, addresses students before their spring break at California City Middle School in California City, Calif., on Friday, March 11, 2022. 

SPOKANE, Wash. – Young people’s mental health is in crisis and physicians now say early intervention is critical. 

The pandemic took an incredible toll on children’s mental health: so much so, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared a national state of emergency. 

The Centers for Disease Control says mental health-related emergency room visits went up 24 percent in kids ages 5 to 11.

Leading physicians now say kids should be screened for anxiety as young as 8 years old. 

Kids around this age may not be able to fully express their emotions. But anxiety can still be present through bursts of rage, complaining about stomach aches or headaches and not wanting to go to school. 

The CDC says 37.1 percent of students experienced poor mental health during the pandemic.

Now, local school counselors are seeing more young people in need. 

“I don’t think anxiety’s going away. I don’t think depression is going away,” said Greenacres Elementary School Counselor Christina Belknap. 

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force suggests kids ages 12 to 18 be screened for major depressive disorder and suicide. 

Sabrina Votava, a licensed mental health counselor, sees the recommendation as a proactive measure. She says the earlier young people learn to cope, the better off they will be.

“If we can understand it at an early age, it just sets us up for success for the rest of your life,” Votava said. 

“It’s very important for parents to validate kids’ feelings, to not just say ‘You’re fine’ or ‘It’s going to be okay,” but to really empathize,” Belknap said. 

Votava has young children herself and doesn’t want to create fear or concern in their lives about mental health. 

She makes these conversations about stressors and feelings a part of everyday life, so when concerns do arise, that line of communication is already open.

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