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Mental health: To Screen or Not to Screen?

Feeling detached from everyone and everything beyond their family because of the pandemic may cause students who have never been on educators’ radar in the past for mental health concerns to start bubbling to the surface as the school year begins—regardless of whether they are continuing to learn remotely or back at school buildings.

Weigh these options for uncovering student mental health issues:

1. Conduct universal screening.

If you have the infrastructure in place to address the needs of a potentially large number of students either in person or remotely who may convey mental health needs through a web-based screening tool, engage in a screening early in the school year, John Crocker, director of school mental health and behavioral services at Methuen (Mass.) Public Schools says. If you don’t have a coordinated means of remote follow-up and crisis prevention and intervention, then you may not want to start screening all students this year and may want to concentrate on those about whom you already have concerns instead.

2. Act on referrals.

If your district or school building is not ready to conduct a large-scale mental health screening, be prepared to conduct more initial assessments based on teacher, parent, and student referrals, Crocker says. Also recognize a drop in student attendance or grades, or an increase in challenging behavior, as a red flag. “When one of those flags goes up, that’s an opportunity for us to conduct an initial assessment to rule in or rule out social-emotional concerns,” he says.

3. Look for trends.

You may also want to conduct needs assessments, such as those of staff, parents, students, and the community, to see how different groups are doing and determine if there are any trends. “This is not for identification; it’s anonymous,” Crocke says. “You are looking for trends to see the number of students or families who have needs related to food insecurity or social-emotional issues or even technology. If a family can’t put food on the table, I’m guessing academics are the least of their concerns.”

Excerpted from “Mental health: To Screen or Not to Screen?” in District Administration. Read the full article for additional details on the above options.

Source: District Administration | Mental health: To Screen or Not to Screen?, https://districtadministration.com/mental-health-to-screen-or-not-to-screen | © 2020. District Administration

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