News / Vancouver

UBC researcher says children should be screened for anxiety

A UBC researcher says children in kindergarten should be screened for anxiety disorders, just as they are for hearing, vision and reading problems at that age.

Lynn Miller, an associate professor of counselling psychology, presented her findings Monday at the American Educational Research Association's annual meeting in Vancouver.

Miller said one in 10 children is affected by a mental health disorder, and the majority are anxiety disorders.

"We have many studies that support that the earlier intervention the better," she said.

"We also know that untreated anxiety has a host of terrible outcomes: Higher rates of depression, higher rates of using alcohol, higher rates of using tobacco, higher school absence, lower vocational aspirations, and it's the number one predictor of completed youth suicide."

The former teacher developed a simple, two-part questionnaire parents can fill out that was 85 per cent effective at predicting anxiety disorders in a test group of 200 children from the Lower Mainland.

"The good news is that anxiety disorders are among the easiest to treat and the best way to treat these disorders is when kids start school," Miller said.

She explained parents, teachers and community members can teach children how to cope with anxiety by helping them identify when they are feeling anxious and coping techniques that work for them. Then they can begin taking steps to face their fears.

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