Implementing the evidence: Routine screening for depression and anxiety in primary care

J Am Coll Health. 2023 Jan 26:1-6. doi: 10.1080/07448481.2022.2138406. Online ahead of print.


Background: Primary care providers are qualified to treat, diagnose, and manage common mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Anxiety and depression are common among college age students, with the average age of onset occurring in one's late teens to early 20s. Screening tools are commonly used to recognize patients who may be at risk for anxiety and depression. Purpose: The purpose of this evidence-based practice project was to (a) implement evidence-based guidelines for screening and management of college-aged patients with anxiety and/or depression and (b) to develop an algorithm that describes evidence-based management to guide providers at two student health centers. Methods: All patients who registered for a sick visit or other appointment at the project site were screened for anxiety and depression using two validated tools. An algorithm to help healthcare providers properly assess and better treat anxiety and depression was developed and implemented for this project. Results: A total of 366 patients were screened for depression and anxiety over a 3-month period. Using the created algorithm, patients received education on anxiety and/or depression and a counseling referral. If warranted, patients were prescribed medication therapy for depression and/or anxiety. Conclusion: Screening for anxiety and depression has become the standard of care in primary care clinics. Routine screening tools help healthcare providers identify patients with anxiety and depression. Early identification and diagnosis of anxiety and depression leads to better outcomes in treatment.

Keywords: Anxiety; anxiety screening; college students; depression; depression screening; screening tools.