Fifteen-minute consultation: Communicating with young people—how to use HEEADSSS, a psychosocial interview for adolescents

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Abstract

Adolescents undergo a period of biological, social and psychosocial development, and each of these domains impacts each other. Psychosocial areas of concern often emerge over the adolescent period (such as mental health conditions, drug use and risky sexual behaviour); those with chronic illness being at higher risk. The paper aims to guide health practitioners on when and how to approach the psychosocial interview with young people and assess areas of risk or concern. This will include putting them at ease, developing rapport, seeing them alone and explaining confidentiality before commencing the assessment. Home, Education/Employment, Eating, Activities, Drugs, Sexuality, Suicidal ideation and Safety (HEEADSSS) is a recognised psychosocial interview framework that allows a better understanding of the young person’s situation and what their specific needs may be. By exploring each section in turn briefly or more fully, it gives the professional an overall impression of the young person’s life and any risky behaviours or concerns. This systematic structure should develop an easily accessible approach to adolescents as a group of patients whatever their developmental stage.

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