NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

SHOULD SCHOOLS BE TESTING STUDENTS' MENTAL HEALTH?

August 8, 2006

Clark County (Las Vegas), Nevada, is the largest district in the nation that subscribes to Columbia TeenScreen, which uses questionnaires as the first step toward evaluating an adolescent's mental health.

Parents must give permission for their children to participate in mental health screening, which was administered to ninth graders in Clark County last year.  Questions include, "How often have you felt sad or depressed?  Have you often felt grouchy or irritable? Have you thought seriously about killing yourself?"

  • The Clark County School District allowed the screening in 10 high schools last year as part of a pilot study.
  • With a $1.2 million federal grant, the number of participating schools will double this year.
  • Nevada has one of the nation's highest rates of suicide for young adults; of high schoolers who took part in a statewide survey, 16 percent said they had seriously considered killing themselves.

Parents are provided with a list of social services that offer counseling and clinical intervention, but the TeenScreen program does not provide services beyond the initial questionnaire and follow-up interviews.

  • In the 2005-06 academic year, 7,743 freshmen at 10 high schools were screened with parental approval, an 84 percent participation rate.
  • Of the students screened, 621 came up "positive," indicating a possible need for mental health services, and were assessed individually.
  • Of those students, 357 were recommended for further mental health services.
  • Of the 219 parents surveyed after their child took part in the screening, all but 45 said they appreciated the heads-up.
  • Of the parents who declined to give permission for the screening, the majority said they did not believe their child needed the service, or their child did not want to participate.

Source: Emily Richmond, "Should schools be testing students' mental health?" Las Vegas Sun, August 8, 2006.

 

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