The New Horizons Youth and Family Center’s TeenScreen program in Lancaster, Ohio provides free, school-based mental health screens to local junior high and high school youth. The Children’s Medical Fund grant of $12,000 will subsidize the screening and outpatient treatment of additional children and families who are uninsured or under-insured. Public funding for services such as these has been drastically reduced over the past three years, causing children with severe emotional disturbances to go untreated. The grant will help restore care for many of these children.
Our guest blogger this week is Tony Motta of New Horizons Youth and Family Center. He gives an overview of the startling statistics of teens with mental illness and those who have attempted or thought of suicide and how the TeenScreen program is helping.
TeenScreenTeenScreen provides the opportunity for teens to get a mental health checkup. Similar to a physical check up every year, it is important to make sure children are growing well mentally and are able to handle the challenges and set backs that arise.
TeenScreen is an evidence-based program that is tailored to meet the needs of junior high, high school students and faculty. TeenScreen is a mental health and suicide risk screening program.
The goals of the New Horizons TeenScreen program are:
- To make in-school, voluntary screening services available to junior high and high school students
- To follow up with students who test positive, as well as their families, and assist linkage to appropriate care
- To provide training programs to students, parents, and school staff and increase level of awareness in community
What is the problem?
- Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for teens and young adults.
- 100 adolescents commit suicide each week nationwide.
- In Fairfield County, in 2012, 8% of high school students reported they attempted suicide; 11% have made a suicide plan, and 18% seriously considered suicide.
- Someone who has attempted suicide is eight times more likely to attempt again.
- Approximately one million teens suffer from depression; only 1/3 get treatment.
How does my child get screened?
The mental health professionals of TeenScreen educate students and staff about mental health, depression, and suicide. Symptoms of depression, signs of suicide, ways to stay healthy, and ways to get help are among the topics covered when classes receive the program.
Parent permission forms to participate in the TeenScreen program are sent home with classes that receive the presentation. However, any student, 12 years of age or older, can be screened by request.
Once parent and student permission are obtained, the student answers questions on a computer for about 10 minutes. They are asked about their feelings, moods, and behaviors. The screen focuses on early warning signs of mental illness. Afterwards, the student meets with a trained mental health professional to discuss the results of the screen. Depending on the outcome, the mental health professional then works with parents to determine the best way to help the student.
A ninth grade female student had previously refused to go to a counselor, per her parents’ request. During the screen, the student demonstrated many symptoms of depression and anxiety. The screen also revealed that these symptoms were drastically impairing her functioning. She agreed with the screener’s referral for a mental health evaluation. She informed the screener that she was hesitant to talk to her mother about counseling, due to the stress her mother has recently been under. The screener contacted the mother, explained the symptoms, and referred the student for a mental health evaluation. The mother was very receptive to the referral. She reported to the screener, “This screening happened just at the right time.”
Through the Signs of Suicide educational program, students are given the opportunity to speak with someone if they have concerns about the mental health of themselves or a friend. Out of 5 grade levels presented to, 181 students requested to meet. Many students shared concerns about a friend’s symptoms of depression and/or suicide. Still others recognized the signs in themselves, as they learned in the presentations, and were asking for help.
A young lady in junior high scored positive for suicidal ideation, suicidal attempts, depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive on the TeenScreen questionnaire. During the interviewing process, she confided in the counselor she had recently attempted suicide by taking several different types of pills two evenings ago. The student was thinking about suicide and had a plan. The counselor contacted the parent immediately and a referral was made. Two weeks later she told me she believed had she not taken the TeenScreen questionnaire she would no longer be here because she had planned to attempt suicide that evening. Over the past six months, I have witnessed this young lady blossom into an excelling student both academically and emotionally. During the last six weeks of school, she was on the honor roll. This young lady believed that seeing the counselor during the interviewing process of TeenScreen saved her life.