Mental Health Screening Recommended for Teens

Posted at 7:03 PM, Feb 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-09 20:03:04-05

It can be difficult for parents to identify mental health problems in their children, and for families to overcome the stigma attached to mental illness. However, regular mental health screening in kids and teens can help with both of these issues.

A new federal recommendation suggests doctors should screen all young adults ages 12-18 for depression and mental health issues, and advocacy groups in the Fox Valley agree. Until doctors do screenings regularly, schools in the Fox Cities and Oshkosh are performing their own free, optional wellness screenings for high school freshmen.

The first district to offer these screenings was Kaukauna, and now the issue has become less taboo because of them, according to Sarah Newberry, the Director of Special Education and Pupil Services.

"We kind of see this as a screening like we do in all other areas," Newberry explained.

"We do vision screenings, we do hearing screenings for students, so having a screening for mental wellness is just one other area that we make sure that we're doing a check-in."

Detection and treatment of mental illness early can make a huge difference in a child's life, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Fox Valley.

"We know that half of all of lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, three-quarters by age 24, so early intervention is important," said NAMI Fox Valley Communications Director Wendy Magas.

The Samaritan Counseling Center provides the free screenings in schools, which are optional and require both parent and child consent.

"A student might be referred for counseling services that same day," said Samaritan Counseling Center Executive Director Rosangela Berbert.

The many players involved know that getting help right away could prevent a tragedy.