UF physicians to train South Florida providers in identifying signs of depression and suicide risk in children and teens

UF Health physicians have received a grant to train community providers in South Florida on the best ways to recognize and treat signs of depression and suicide risk in children and teenagers. The grant was awarded by the national American Academy of Pediatrics following the tragic shooting at Parkland High School in February.

The grant was awarded to the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics under the leadership of Madeline Joseph, M.D., a professor in the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville’s department of emergency medicine; Elise Fallucco, M.D., an associate professor in the college’s department of psychiatry; and Alicia Adams, executive director of the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics Inc.

“We are very humbled to be able to respond to some of the concerns voiced by our colleagues in Broward and Palm Beach County regarding the tremendous mental health needs after the Parkland shooting,” Joseph said. “With the support of the American Academy of Pediatrics Disaster Recovery Fund, we hope to increase the proportion of primary care office visits where youth are screened for depression and to increase the proportion of children with mental health problems who receive treatment.”

The grant will be used to train community providers on how to recognize and treat signs of depression and suicide risk in adolescents, especially in post-trauma populations, including victims and survivors of gun violence. Previous studies conducted by Fallucco and colleagues have shown that this specialized training program dramatically improves identification and treatment of depression in youth.

“Adolescent depression and suicide have reached epidemic proportions and we are honored to be able to work with community primary care providers who are on the front lines caring for teens in the Parkland area,” Fallucco said. “The majority of adolescents with depression through the country suffer in silence without the treatment they need. We hope that this training will help the children and adolescents in the Parkland area receive the care and support they deserve.”

Joseph, president of the Florida Chapter of the AAP, said the group is also discussing other potential collaborations with the Florida Department of Health to better address pediatric depression. For example, the state currently has a hotline for pediatricians to talk with a pediatric psychiatrist to help in management of depression.

“Barriers that can keep them from receiving mental health treatment adversely affect adolescents with depression. Our goal is to change that,” said Joseph.

The training will guide primary care physicians on strategies to implement depression screening and treatment in a primary care setting and is tentatively scheduled to begin this summer and conclude in the fall.

Featured Faculty

Madeline M. Joseph, MD

Madeline M. Joseph, MD

Associate Dean for Faculty Advancement and Engagement