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N.J. is 1 step away from universal depression screening for teens

Adam Clark | January 14, 2020 | NJ Advance Media |

Depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts are increasingly common among New Jersey teens. Now, schools might have a chance to identify students who need help sooner rather than later.

New Jersey is one step away from universal depression screening in grades 7 through 12 following approval Monday by the state Senate and Assembly. Both houses passed a bill mandating annual depression screening in public schools, and it now heads to Gov. Phil Murphy to either sign or veto.

As long as parents consent, students would complete a computerized screening survey at school, and the district would notify parents if their child has been flagged for signs of depression.

The screening results are not a formal diagnosis. Schools would advise parents they should share the results with their child’s doctor.

“If a young person is experiencing feelings of sadness and hopelessness caused by depression, those feelings won’t simply go away,” said Assemblyman Herb Conaway, D-Burlington, who sponsored the bill. “Depression is an illness, not a phase.”

The bill passed 25-14 in the Senate and 69-4-1 in the Assembly.


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