In American schools, mental health screenings are not given to students as often as we should

In American schools, mental health screenings are not given to students as often as we should

In American schools, mental health screenings are not given to students as often as we should

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Suicide is the eleventh leading cause of death among teenagers in the United States, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And the crisis is getting worse—the suicide rate for teens aged 10-17 increased by 29% from 1999 to 2014.

In September 2017, eight pediatricians groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), and the American Academy of Pediatrics Medical Society for Prevention and Screening (AAPMSPS), sent a letter to President Trump and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), calling for the expansion of the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline among young people.

A randomized controlled study (RCT) conducted by the Aparat Foundation and published in May 2017 found that one-third of teenagers who used the suicide prevention hotline had not received a mental health screening. The study was a follow-up to a 2016 study that found only 10% of teens who used the hotline got a mental health screening.

“Among high school students, 17.7% reported having attempted suicide in the past year, and 21.7% reported having attempted at least once since age 13. Any student at risk for suicide who experienced one of these crises can call (800) 273-8255 in an emergency and receive immediate and accurate support. Most teens can be reached within minutes,” the letter reads.

The pediatricians groups are particularly concerned about how little time adolescents spend on mental health screenings, given the current lack of resources for mental health screening and treatment in general. All adolescent mental health screening and treatment records must be made available to the primary care provider—even if the patient lives outside of the patient’s home state. “Mental health professionals often find that families are unaware of these benefits. The implications can be significant; if a patient needs to live in a location with no doctor or service providers, it can be difficult for him or her to receive quality mental health care,” the letter reads.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, located at 1-800-273-8255, provides real-time support and screening for those experiencing emotional distress and suicidal thoughts.

“Identifying and supporting teens during times of distress is crucial. If a teen needs help, finding him or her can be a critical first step toward helping to save a life,” says Michael Bakshi, President of Aparat Foundation. “The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) require health plans to provide adolescents who call the suicide hotline with a comprehensive mental health screening and assessment, and require them to provide on-demand follow-up support with a mental health professional.”

“Families need to know that the screening and the follow-up are free,” Bakshi adds. “Many insurance plans can cover these free services, while others can cover services on an as-needed basis. It is important for families to seek the help they need. Mental health screening saves lives, and families need to know about this so they can reach out for help.”

Follow the Mental Health in Education Blog for original posts, expert information, and resources on mental health in K-12 schools.

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