TRENTON, NJ — Legislation sponsored by Senator Troy Singleton (D-Burlington) would require public schools to administer written screenings for depression for students in grades seven through twelve. The measure passed the Senate Education Committee on Thursday.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 2.8 million young people between the ages of 12-17 experience at least one major depressive episode each year. Approximately 10-15 percent of teenagers exhibit at least one symptom of depression at any time, and about five percent of teenagers suffer from major depression at any time. Teenage depression has led to a 70 percent increase in suicides between 2006 and 2016.
“We cannot wait another moment to address the problem of adolescent and teen depression,” said Singleton. “Youth depression is on the rise and is only accelerating in the time of COVID-19. This is not just a mental health problem – it is a public health problem. This legislation provides for annual school based mental health screenings and is a preemptive measure against this debilitating illness. It would allow us to identify the symptoms of depression in our students before it’s too late or it turns into a life-long cycle.”
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The bill would require boards of education to ensure that students in grades seven through twelve receive a health screening for depression annually. The screening is to be proctored and conducted electronically via a computer, and is to utilize a screening tool that has been validated to screen depression in adolescents, as determined by the Commissioners of Education and Children and Families.