Mental Health Checkups Frequently Asked Questions
Why should teens be screened for mental illness?
The main benefit of mental health screening is finding teens who are suffering silently and are not known to need help. Screening is used to identify these teens and give their families a chance to seek help before the problems become severe and, for some, life-threatening. Eleven percent of American youth suffer from a mental illness with significant impairment in their day-to-day functioning, but 80% of them do not receive help.
It is also important to note the link between mental illness and suicide, the third-leading cause of death among teens in the United States: 90% of teens who die by suicide have a treatable mental illness at the time of their death.
If a teen has serious emotional problems, wouldn’t the teen’s parents, teachers or doctors already know
Many teens appear to be normal, happy, and healthy on the outside, but are in great pain on the inside. They don’t realize that they need help, or they don’t know how to ask for it. Teens are more likely to acknowledge these feelings on questionnaires than they are to report these symptoms on their own. In fact, research has found that 90% of parents whose children have tried to end their lives by suicide are not even aware of their suicide attempts.
How do you know mental health checkups work?
Research shows that mental health screening is an accurate predictor of mental health problems that may develop into more serious conditions. The scientific evidence supporting screening led the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force to recommend that all teens receive an annual mental health checkup for depression. The U.S. Surgeon General has also highlighted mental health screening as an effective method of youth suicide prevention.
How do you know mental health screening isn’t harmful?
Research shows that mental health screening is safe. A large study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that screening and directly asking youth if they are thinking about suicide or have made a prior suicide attempt does not put the idea of suicide in their heads, increase suicide ideation or create distress.
Does screening lead to the unnecessary use of medicines?
The TeenScreen National Center and its programs make no treatment recommendations and believes that all treatment decisions should be left to parents and legal guardians. We are familiar with the concern about over-reliance on medication in the treatment of depression and other mental illness in teens. A study of teens that received treatment after a mental health screening found that 81% received psychotherapy alone without medication and 11% received a combination of medication and psychotherapy. 5% received some type of alternative treatment including Christian counseling and acupuncture. None received medication alone.
Don’t pediatricians assess mental health when youth get annual physicals?
Most pediatricians and family physicians do not routinely assess children’s mental health status during routine physical examinations.
What if the parents or teens don’t want to participate in screening?
Mental health screening is completely voluntary. There are no states or federal laws in the U.S. that require mental health screening for teens.
Do screening instruments falsely identify teens that have no mental health problems?
Screening programs don’t diagnose mental illness but instead only identify teens that have a high probability of needing an in-depth mental health assessment. About 80% of teens that have a positive score on a screening questionnaire are found through more complete evaluation to have a significant mental health problem.
How do I get more information on mental health screening?
Below are several organizations that provide additional information on mental illness and screening: