Mental health screenings are a key part of youth mental health. Approximately 50% of chronic mental health conditions begin by age 14 and 75% begin by age 24. At the same time, the average delay between when symptoms first appear and intervention is 8-10 years. Mental health screenings allow for early identification and intervention and help bridge the gap.
Research has shown that targeting symptoms early leads to better outcomes. Early treatment may also lessen long-term disability and prevent years of suffering. Health care screenings are common in this country, and mental health screenings should be no exception.
Where NAMI Stands
NAMI strongly supports early mental health screening. Early mental health screening should take place in a primary care doctor’s office or in school.
Pediatricians and physicians should screen children and youth for mental health conditions as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Medicaid actually requires screening Medicaid-eligible children for mental health conditions under the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) mandate in federal law. Unfortunately, many states do not follow the law’s requirements.
Mental health screenings in schools allow staff to identify mental health conditions early and connect students with help. School staff should be able to recognize early warning signs. They should also be trained to work with the community mental health system and to discuss mental health concerns with families.
What NAMI Is Doing
The Medicaid Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) law requires states to provide Medicaid-eligible children regular mental health screenings. NAMI works hard to enforce this requirement in every state.
NAMI advocates for the federal Mental Health in Schools Act of 2015 (H.R. 1211/S. 1588). In addition to screening, early identification and intervention services for youth in schools are also important and are included in this legislation.
Support for Professionals
NAMI supports professionals from around the country as they work to promote mental health screenings. NAMI encourages federal, state and local leaders to take steps to implement mental health screening for children and adolescents. NAMI also encourages primary care professionals to provide early and regular mental health screening for all children, youth and young adults and to link to, and coordinate with, comprehensive mental health assessment and treatment services.