Mental health is often overlooked when it comes to the medical system. While diseases such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, and even obesity have received a significant amount of attention, people are still made uncomfortable by issues surrounding mental health. Fortunately, this stigma has started to fade and people are starting to pay more attention to issues that surround mental health. Unfortunately, depression and suicide can even impact children, particularly students. High school, college, and adolescence as a whole can be trying times. Fortunately, there are tools that can be used in the student suicide risk assessment process. One of these tools is called the teen screen which can be administered by any trained professional.
The Teen Screen Questionnaire
The Pediatric Symptom Checklist for Youth, often abbreviated as the “Teen Screen” is a list of 35 items that the teenager can complete that is used to detect a diverse array of possible mental health problems including depression and suicidal ideation. The questions are designed to focus on possible internalization, externalization, and even attention issues. There are two key questions at the end which are the most important. These are the two questions that address suicidal thoughts, plans, and actions directly. It is extremely important for everyone administering the questionnaire to make sure that the child completes it. Sometimes, parents will “help” their children complete the questionnaire. This kind of parental interpretation could lead to missed symptoms or an inaccurate score. Overall, the questionnaire takes minutes and can be administered as a part of any routine health exam. Overall, the tool is very effective at identifying depressive symptoms and can help address any potential suicide risk directly.
What to Do with a Positive Screen
Each of the 35 questions receives a score of 0, 1, or 2. The last two questions at the end are not included in the score but if either is a “yes,” the screen is positive. A total score of 30 is also considered positive but any question receiving a score of “2” should be addressed. Ultimately, any teenager experiencing suicidal thoughts needs help right away; however, any other sign of a mental health disorder should be met with understanding, sympathy, a show of support, and additional resources for children who might be struggling with their mental health.
The Role of the Caregiver
Ultimately, it is very important to keep an eye on the mental health of teenagers and adolescents using a student suicide risk assessment tool such as the teen screen. Because of the age range, many teenagers and students will not bring these issues to their parents, teachers, or mentors willingly. It is incumbent on everyone to place the mental health and welfare of these impressionable youth first.