Local News


US task force calls for screening children 8 and older for anxiety to identify mental health issues

Posted at 12:23 PM, Nov 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-14 11:58:43-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — During an annual checkup, it's a pediatrician's job to check a child's growth and development. Now, medical experts say it's time to also look at a child's mental health.

13 Action News anchor Tricia Kean looks at the plan to screen children here in our valley and across the country.

10-year-old Jett is your typical kid. He loves playing video games.

His mom, Elena Ledoux, says he's well rounded. But just like anyone his age, occasionally there are things that bother him — like the time Jett was concerned about someone breaking into their home while his dad was out of town.

Screening for child anxiety

"He was very zoomed in on that fear and he's clearly anxious about it, whereas normally, he never mentioned it before," Ledoux said.

She says they talked about it and Jett felt better. But she knows kids aren't always open about their feelings.

"Sometimes children will share some things, but they will not share others," Ledoux said.

She says Jett's fear passed, and he hasn't lost any sleep. But that's not always the case with every child.

In fact, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says we're not catching mental health issues early enough. So, they're recommending children ages 8 to 18 should be screened for anxiety.

"I feel it's a good idea, because our children are really experiencing a lot that we weren't exposed to when we were children," Ledoux said.

"I absolutely agree with this recommendation," says Dr. Sid Khurana, a child psychiatrist and the medical director of Nevada Mental Health.


Khurana says millions of U.S. children suffer from anxiety, and it's important to catch it early, rather than wait for something bad to happen.

"Anxiety is a very normal and a much-required human response, which saves us from danger. But at a certain point, when that anxiety signal keeps on going and doesn't turn off, then it becomes a disorder," Khurana said.

He says that's when a child's emotional development may begin to suffer. It can affect their education, and they may have trouble socializing and making friends.

So how do you screen a child for anxiety? Khurana says it's important to ask the right questions.

"Are they excessively worried? Can they turn off their worries when they go to school or when they're playing with their friends and go and have a good time?" Khurana asked.

Some critics may argue screening all children could lead to many being misdiagnosed. But Khurana says screening and diagnosing are two different things.

Pediatricians will simply test a child — then, if necessary, refer them to an expert for diagnoses. And contrary to what some believe, Khurana says recommending further analysis for anxiety isn't going to hurt a child.

"We hear that a lot. People think once you suggest, people get a condition. That's not research, evidence based. If people have a condition, they have a condition. And if they don't, they don't," Khurana said.

Bottom line, Khurana says regular standardized child anxiety screening is long overdue. He says it could change the life of some children and possibly even save some lives.

"Because what happens if you don't diagnose anxiety at the right time? Consequences of undiagnosed or unaddressed anxiety are secondary depression... It can lead to peer rejection, social isolation, substance use, not graduating high school, not being able to have jobs. The impact keeps on going," Khurana said.

Ledoux agrees and says as a mom, screening children regularly just makes sense.

"With any mental health issue or disease, just as a physical disease, the sooner you address it, the higher chance you have of remedying it," Ledoux said.

It's important to note, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is independent of the U.S. government. No official decision has been made yet.