Not only should parents and children be screened more routinely for depression, they also need access to care, says last year's report by the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine on the effects of parental depression.
Adult primary care and pediatricians' offices could be convenient places for screening, but such screening happens infrequently, says John Williams, a professor of medicine and psychiatry at Duke University who studies depression treatment in primary care. The healthcare system has built-in barriers that discourage it, he says.
There is no insurance reimbursement code for such screening, he notes, "so you can't even get paid for it."
Further, the fragmented healthcare system militates against a comprehensive family approach. Although more U.S. adults, and thus more parents, are being treated for depression, such care doesn't occur through any organized system that considers what's happening to children or that links the whole family to care, says Williams.
Nonetheless, many mental health experts say millions of kids would be better off if there was more rigorous screening to identify children at risk due to their parents' depression.