Background: Adolescent depression is one of the most important risk factors for adolescent safety, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends depression screening using a validated tool for the adolescent population at least once a year. Pediatric patients with neuromuscular disorders often receive care for their chronic disease through a multidisciplinary team of healthcare providers. Lacking in this multidisciplinary approach, however, is a wide-ranging assessment of these patients’ mental health.
Objectives: Through development of the evidence-based Depression Screening Program in the Lurie Children’s Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) clinic, we aimed to determine the prevalence of depressive symptoms in patients with neuromuscular disorders, promote early identification of depressive symptoms, and improve prompt referral and establishing care of mental health (MH) services.
Methods: Patients 13 to 17 years old attending the Lurie Children’s MDA clinic with a neuromuscular diagnosis were eligible to participate in the study. The Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II) questionnaire was distributed to participating subjects. The MDA provider reviewed all screening scores, and provided MH referrals to patients with moderate or severe depression scores or a positive suicidal ideation score.
Results: Implementation of the Depression Screening Program took place over a 20-month period, screening 29 adolescents aged 13 to 17 years, 31% (n=9) females and 69% (n=20) males. 14% (n=4) of adolescents screened positive for moderate to severe depressive symptoms or positive suicidal ideation scores, and 100% (n=4) of adolescents with positive screening scores received a referral to MH services.
Conclusions: The Depression Screening Program serves as a useful model for developing and implementing a depression screening protocol in the MDA clinic setting. The findings support that MH concerns are prevalent in adolescents with neuromuscular disorders, and comprehensive care of this population should include an assessment of MH to improve identification of depressive symptoms and provide referrals as appropriate.