Screening for depression in children and adolescents: a protocol for a systematic review update

Abstract Background Major depressive disorder is common, debilitating, and affects feelings, thoughts, mood, and behaviors. Childhood and adolescence are critical periods for the development of depression and adolescence is marked by an increased incidence of mental health disorders. This protocol outlines the planned scope and methods for a systematic review update that will evaluate the benefits and harms of screening for depression in children and adolescents. Methods This review will update a previously published systematic review by Roseman and colleagues. Eligible studies are randomized controlled trials (RCTs) assessing formal screening in primary care to identify children or adolescents not already self-reporting symptoms of, diagnosed with, or treated for depression. If no or only a single RCT is available, we will consider controlled studies without random assignment. Studies of participants with characteristics associated with an elevated risk of depression will be analyzed separately. Outcomes of interest are symptoms of depression, classification of major depressive disorder based on a validated diagnostic interview, suicidality, health-related quality of life, social function, impact on lifestyle behavior (e.g., substance use, school performance, lost time at work, or school), false-positive results, overdiagnosis, overtreatment, labeling, and other harms such as those arising from treatment. We will search MEDLINE, Embase, PsycINFO, CINAHL, the Cochrane Library, and grey literature sources. Two reviewers will independently screen the titles and abstracts using the liberal accelerated method. Full-text screening will be performed independently by two reviewers using pre-specified eligibility criteria. Data extraction and risk of bias assessments will be performed independently by two reviewers. Pre-planned analyses, including subgroup and sensitivity analyses, are detailed within this protocol. Two independent reviewers will assess and finalize through consensus the certainty of evidence using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) approach, and prepare GRADE evidence profiles and summary of findings tables for each outcome of interest. Discussion The systematic review will provide a current state of the evidence of benefits and harms of depression screening in children and adolescents. These findings will be used by the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care to inform the development of recommendations on depression screening. Systematic review registration PROSPERO CRD42020150373
Systematic Reviews. 2021 Jan 12;10(1):24