In guidelines published this month by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the physicians’ organization is calling on doctors to conduct screenings of all patients between the ages of 12 and 12 in order to detect signs of depression. By encouraging primary care doctors to screen adolescents and young adults as part of annual checkups, physicians could then be involved in recommending restrictions on their patients Second Amendment rights.

The AAP already recommends depression screenings for pediatric patients, the guidelines represent that first time the guidelines have been updated in 10 years. The guidelines provide details about how to treat depression and when to consult mental health professionals. 

In the wake of the fatal mass shooting at a high school in Florida last week by 19-year-old man who had reportedly received mental health care, there has been considerable discussion by the media and even proposals from politicians and the White House over keeping firearms out of the hands of anyone under the age of 21 or anyone who is deemed mentally unfit. 

In the case of confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz, authorities ranging from the federal to the local levels have been criticized for apparently ignoring warning signs that the teen would eventually unleash more than 100 rounds from his semi-automatic rifle to kill 17 persons. Authorities had received multiple tips that Cruz was armed. He had also been expelled from the school for bringing knives.

In the new AAP guidelines, doctors are advised that, if they determine that their patients are likely to harm themselves or others, they should devise a "safety plan" that includes discussing the removal of potentially lethal objects at home such as firearms or medications that can cause a fatal overdose. The AAP encourages physicians to advise who their patients can call if they are having suicidal thoughts -- a leading cause of death among teens in which depression is a risk factor.

The AAP encourages physicians to speak to teen patients alone because many may feel more comfortable speaking about mental health issues if parents or other adults are not present. However, parents and other adults were encouraged by the group to discuss with physicians andy symptoms they observe. 

According to the AAP, physicians are to use a questionnaire that asks adolescent patients how often they have felt "depressed, down or hopeless," and how often they have felt "little interest or pleasure in doing things." In a statement from the AAP, Dr. Rachel Zuckerbrot declared, “A lot of parents go to their pediatrician for the scraped knees and sore throats but don’t think of them when it comes to seeking help for emotional and behavioral issues.” Zuckerbrot, a lead author of the guidelines, added, “The American Academy of Pediatrics is supporting pediatricians, so that they are prepared to identify and treat these types of issues.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that as many as one in five children have depression. Suicides among young people have been rising.

Federal law prohibits anyone “adjudicated as a mental defective” or “committed to a mental institution” from shipping, transporting, receiving, or possessing firearms or ammunition, unless granted relief under a federally approved program. State law also apply. For example, in Connecticut, anyone who has been discharged from custody within the preceding 20 years after having been found not guilty of a crime by reason of mental disease or defect may not possess a firearm. In Connecticut, anyone who has been committed to a psychiatric hospital under a probate order within the past 60 months or 12 months is also prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition, or purchasing or otherwise acquiring firearms, among other restrictions.
 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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