Fallucco said anxiety is the most common mental health problem in teens, and depression affects between 15 and 20 percent of them, with the prevalence increasing over the past decade. She adds one of the major consequences of untreated depression is suicide, which has become the second-leading cause of death among this age group in the country.
Joseph says mental health issues resulting from gun violence require special attention. Nearly 1,300 children 16 and younger die from gunshot wounds every year, and nearly 5,800 are injured, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Gun violence is a public health threat to children,” Joseph said. “Although mass shootings like the one in Parkland command our attention, children remain at risk of suicide, homicide and unintentional injury from guns on a daily basis. We see the effects in our emergency rooms and trauma centers.”
Fallucco says pediatric providers are well aware of other forms of trauma, such as physical and sexual abuse, but are “learning on the go” about the immediate and widespread effects of gun-related violence.
“While these other forms of trauma immediately impact an individual, the fatal gun violence affects the community as a whole,” Fallucco said. “Because of this wide-ranging impact, we need to be ready to respond.”
To gauge the effectiveness of their training, Fallucco and Joseph will study each participating provider’s practices to see how many more teens are screened for anxiety, depression and PTSD.
“We will also get feedback from the pediatricians regarding their comfort level and confidence in screening and treatment,” Fallucco said. “Through all of this, we hope to see an increase in the number of children and teens who receive the appropriate attention and treatment for their mental health problems.”