At-Risk Youth ID'd in School-Based Mental Health Screening

Larger proportion of school referrals successfully access services than community referrals

FRIDAY, Aug. 26 (HealthDay News) -- School-based mental health screening effectively identifies youth at high risk for mental illness and connects them to school- or community-based services, according to a study published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

Mathilde M. Husky, Ph.D., from Columbia University in New York City, and colleagues investigated the factors that identify youth at high risk for mental health problems and suicide, and the extent to which at-risk adolescents receive and access recommended mental health services in school and in the community, among ninth-grade students between 2005 and 2009. Records for 2,488 students were reviewed and referrals were given to those identified as at-risk. Data for screening results, mental health referrals, and completion of recommended treatment were collected over 90 days.

The investigators found that 19.6 percent of the students were at-risk and 73.6 percent of them received no treatment. Students who were less severely ill and had lower rates of suicidal ideation, prior suicide attempts, and self-injury were more likely to be referred to school services than community services. Of the at-risk students not currently receiving treatment, 76.3 percent had at least one mental health visit during follow-up. Altogether, 74 and 57.3 percent of the students were referred to school and community services, respectively. A large majority of school referrals successfully accessed services compared to community referrals (80.2 versus 41.9 percent, respectively).

"Systematic voluntary school-based mental health screening and referral offers a feasible means of identifying and connecting high-risk adolescents to school- and community-based mental health services," the authors write.

One of the study authors disclosed financial relationships with the pharmaceutical industry.

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