Have you heard of mental health screening? Did you know that it can effectively prevent substance use and addiction, especially among youth? Given the widespread and relative availability of illicit substances, many schools, communities, and parents have started to use mental health screening as a preventative method among high-risk youth.
How Does Mental Health Screening Work?
Mental health screening involves using assessment questionnaires to begin conversations about a person’s mental state. Because research shows a high correlation between mental health conditions and substance use, these screening tools help health professionals identify individuals who may be at risk of substance use disorder (SUD).
Some mental health screenings are staff-administered, while others can be self-administered. Different versions of such questionnaires can be interchanged for their relevance to a certain age group or sub-population. Each question is scored, and the total scores in certain areas indicate the possibility of specific mental health conditions.
Why Are Mental Health Screening Used?
Mental health screening can assess the severity of risk factors that may precipitate substance use. These brief interventions focus on increasing insight and awareness regarding SUD and motivation for behavioral change. After detecting certain mental health conditions, mental health screens can also help identify the appropriate level of care.
Just as pediatric health professionals use developmental and sensory screening tools to identify children’s health and development concerns, mental health screening uses specific tools and methods. Identifying early signs of mental health issues can help prevent the impact of SUD.
Mental health screening is also used in preparation for intervention and treatment. Some mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, may progress with time. Parents and professionals can intervene early if they are detected early, like during childhood. They can implement methods such as talk therapy, leading to a higher chance of recovering from that mental health condition.
Can School Staff Administer Mental Health Screenings?
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend regular mental health screenings by pediatricians or school staff. Once certain mental health conditions are identified, these individuals can connect students and families with resources. Given the number of mental health-related school shootings, mental health screens can be prevention and intervention.
Unfortunately, many families are not open to using these screening tools due to the widespread societal stigmatization of mental health conditions. We need awareness campaigns to inform more families and communities about the benefits of mental health screenings.
What Can Mental Health Screening Identify?
Prevention screening identifies population-based risk factors such as bio-markers and behaviors that signal poor psychological or mental patterns. Health professionals can also pick up domestic violence, separation of parents, sexual abuse, or other traumatic events impacting the youth. After this step, professionals may run a follow-up screening targeting the subset of that population.
Mental health screening also takes community-level risks into account. These include poverty, crime rate, the prevalence of substance use, and more. Community organizations often partner with mental health professionals and schools to conduct home visitations and incorporate screening in their interventions.
The most common conditions identified during a mental health screening include depression, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, and bipolar disorder.
Personal and family history questions often follow questions related to behavioral patterns on a screening questionnaire. There may also be a physical exam or a cognitive evaluation to check an individual’s capacity for recalling information, mental reasoning, attention, or problem-solving.
Should You Regularly Check In With Your Loved Ones?
Self-screening tools are available if you are concerned about a loved one’s mental health condition. Check-in with your loved one regularly. Talking about these issues is the first step to ending the stigma; everyone can do their part.
You can also encourage a loved one to speak with a mental health specialist. After each check-in, this expert can coach your loved one through treatment options and self-care. This conversation can also raise awareness about avoiding experimentation with drugs or alcohol.
Even after you conduct self-administered screening at home, it is always good to seek a professional mental health evaluation. Watch for signs of poor mental health, such as persistent sadness, suicidal thoughts, or prolonged insomnia due to anxiety.
Seeking help from mental health professionals is a sign of strength, not weakness. Early intervention is key to preventing dual diagnosis, which is the co-occurrence of mental health conditions and SUD.
When you are concerned about mental health conditions potentially contributing to substance use or relapses, consult with addiction recovery experts who use screening methods and a wide range of other assessment tools and therapies. Early intervention is critical to a better chance of full recovery.
If you desire quick results on the recovery journey, you can implement various treatment methods, including mental health screening. These methods serve different functions throughout your recovery journey. Laguna Shores Recovery offers a range of treatments that are evidence-based and founded on scientific research. You can work with experienced health professionals to conduct these screenings and catch mental health conditions before they progress further. Prevention is essential for people with past trauma and psychological needs. With professionally administered mental health screening in a friendly environment, you or your loved one can better understand these health concerns. Laguna is also an expert in treating dual diagnosis. Call us at (866) 774-1532 to find out more.