DURHAM, N.C. — The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends screening children for depression and suicide risk during yearly checkups.

It’s part of the AAP’s updated schedule for preventive care.

“For us to help as many kids as possible, for us to treat kids, for us to get kids into care, we have to be screening for it,” said Dr. Nathan Copeland, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at Duke Health.

This recommendation comes about six months after U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an advisory highlighting the urgent need to address the youth mental health crisis.

Murthy says it was made worse by the pandemic.

“We had rates of suicide increase among our children and for many kids during the pandemic, feelings of anxiety and depression worsened and loneliness as well,” Murthy said last December.

The AAP recommends health providers start depression and suicide risk screenings at age 12, which involves a set of questions for your child.

“Often it’s nine different questions that are asking about depressive symptoms and very frequently at the end of that set of questions, a kid is asked about suicide ideation or thoughts of self-harm, thoughts that they rather may be dead or alive, thoughts that they may be struggling a little bit,” Copeland said.

Mental health resources will then be discussed if a concern is identified.

“It’s something kids have been struggling with for a really long time and if we can come out of this as a community, being more able to support each other, if we can come out of this being more able to engage kids and support kids, I think there’s a lot of hope there,” Copeland said.