As with other physical illnesses, screening for mental illness in adolescence increases the likelihood that it will be identified in early, easier to treat stages. Left untreated, mental illness in adolescents can lead to drug and alcohol abuse, violence, school failure, criminal involvement or teen suicide and can derail social/life development.
Some facts to consider:
Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in young people ages 10-19 years old.
Approximately 50 percent of students age 14 and older that suffer from serious mental illness drop out of high school; this is the highest rate of any disability group.
Many youth with unidentified and untreated mental illness end up in jails and prisons.
65 percent of boys and 75 percent of girls in juvenile detention suffer from mental illness.
Most tragically, untreated mental illness is a significant factor for teen suicide, which is a major public health problem throughout the United States.
In a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Report: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance, Iowa high school students reported that within the previous 12-month period, 22 percent felt sad and hopeless enough over a two-week period to halt usual activity, 12 percent thought seriously about suicide, and nine percent had made a suicide attempt.
90% of teens that die by suicide suffer from a treatable mental illness at the time of their death.
In order to reach all adolescents and offer them and their family appropriate support, TeenScreen Schools and Communities was developed by Colombia University in New York. United Way of North Central Iowa provides funding to offer free TeenScreen mental health checkups. These checkups are based through the high schools and middle schools. Once a year, information is sent home with students and both the parent/guardian and student need to provide consent on the confidential screening. The next TeenScreen will take place at New Hampton High School and Middle School as well as St. Joseph Community School in the fall of 2012. For information on how to get the free TeenScreen in your school district, call the United Way of North Central Iowa 641-423-1774.
“If you have a friend or family member who is a parent of a high school or middle school student, I can’t express how important it is for you to encourage them to participate in this screening,” shared Dr. John Epperly. “Mental health illnesses can be evasive and hidden at this age due to adolescents going through many ‘normal’ physical and emotional changes but nearly half of all mental disorders start by age 14. TeenScreen really goes the extra mile to identify mental health issues adolescents may be experiencing. In addition, TeenScreen helps to start difficult conversations that help teens talk with their parents or other adults about what they have going on in their lives!”
The TeenScreen National Center for Mental Health Checkups at Columbia University is a non-profit initiative and national policy center devoted to increasing youth access to regular mental health checkups. TeenScreen is listed in the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices and the Best Practices Registry for Suicide Prevention. The North Central Iowa TeenScreen Schools and Communities are currently screening in 8 north central Iowa counties. Schools include: Central Springs, Charles City, Clear Lake, Forest City, Garner-Hayfield, Lake Mills, Mason City, Newman Catholic, Northwood-Kensett, Osage, Ventura, Westfork and West Hancock in addition to New Hampton Schools.