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The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force) recommends that adults under the age of 65 get regularly screened for anxiety. The draft recommendation applies to adults 19 and older who don’t have a diagnosed mental health disorder. It’s meant to help primary care clinicians identify early signs of anxiety, which can go undetected for years. This is the first time the Task Force has recommended anxiety screening in adult primary care without symptoms.
The Task Force, a group of independent disease prevention and medical experts, defines anxiety disorders as “characterized by greater duration or intensity of a stress response over everyday events.” Recognized types include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder and agoraphobia.
The draft recommendation noted that the lifetime prevalence of anxiety disorders in adults in the United States is 40.4% for women and 26.4% for men. The recommendation was prioritized due to anxiety’s public health influence and the country’s increased focus on mental health in recent years.
“Our hope is that by raising awareness of these issues and having recommendations for clinicians, that we’ll be able to help all adults in the United States, including those who experience disparities.”
-Lori Pbert, Task Force member
The guidance stops short of recommending anxiety screening for people 65 and older since many common symptoms of aging—such as trouble sleeping, pain and fatigue—can also be symptoms of anxiety. The Task Force said there wasn’t enough evidence to determine the accuracy of screening tools in older adults to distinguish between anxiety symptoms and conditions of aging.
The Task Force advised clinicians to use their judgment in discussing anxiety with older patients. It also reiterated an earlier recommendation that adults of all ages undergo routine screening for depression.
The proposed recommendation is not final and is in a public comment period through Oct. 17. This is an opportunity for the public to provide their input and perspectives for the Task Force to consider for its final approval.
The Task Force emphasizes that if you already show signs or symptoms of anxiety, you should be assessed and connected to care. Anxiety screening tools, including questionnaires and scales, have been developed and are available in primary care. If you have concerns about anxiety, contact your doctor.
By Ashley Snodgrass, Employee Benefits Analyst
As of July 16, 2022, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is changing to be more easily accessible. Now help is only a three-digit number (988) away.
According to Alaska Department of Health Division of Behavioral Health, this change has been planned for many years. The goal is to make it easier to connect anyone in distress to “compassionate, accessible support,” including trained crisis counselors.
I’d like to highlight some statistics that support why this hotline is needed. These are taken directly from the State of Alaska’s FAQ about the new 988 hotline:
“Alaska and the nation are experiencing a mental health crisis. But the crisis is not irreversible.
- In Alaska in 2020, suicide was the leading cause of death for American Indian and Alaska Native youth ages 10-19, and for youth ages 10-14. Suicide was the 2nd leading cause of death overall for all Alaska youth and young adults, ages 15-34.
- According to the most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2019, over 1 in 3 Alaska high school students reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for 2 or more weeks in a row; 25% seriously considered attempting suicide; and nearly 20% attempted suicide.
- When fully implemented, 988 will improve Alaska’s system of care that responds to individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis.
- Those statistics are sobering, but there is good news:
- Suicide is most often preventable. For every person who dies by suicide annually, there are 316 people who seriously consider suicide but do not kill themselves.
- Over 90% of people who attempt suicide go on to live out their lives.”
An FAQ about the 988 Hotline has been made available on the State of Alaska’s webpage, accessible at https://health.alaska.gov/dbh/Pages/Prevention/988/default.aspx#faq
I’ve compiled some additional resources for mental health services in Alaska below:
- Alaska’s Careline: 1-877-266-4357 (HELP) or text “4help” at 839863
- 24/7 free and confidential crisis line
- UAA Psychological Services Center: 907-786-1795
- Telehealth counseling services available at reduced costs to all members of the community.
- Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1 or text to 838255, or use Veterans Crisis Chat on the web
- The Veterans Crisis Line is a free, confidential resource that connects veterans 24 hours a day, seven days a week with a trained responder. The service is available to all veterans, even if they are not registered with the VA or enrolled in VA healthcare.
- State of Alaska Behavioral Health Links & Resources
- Including links to Community Treatment and Recovery Providers with Websites:
In case of emergency, always call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room for treatment.