Establishing Ongoing, Early Identification Programs for Mental Health Problems in Our Schools: A Feasibility Study

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To investigate the feasibility of establishing ongoing, early identification services for mental health problems in school settings.


School counselors and other mental health professionals (N = 41) in middle, junior, and high schools (N = 23) were given training and supervision in the administration of an evidence-based mental health assessment tool, the Voice Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children IV (DISC-IV), over the course of 1½ school years.


During the study, 530 students were selected to be assessed with the DISC, and 72% were confirmed to be at risk for a mental health problem (DISC+). Among DISC+ cases, 71% had never been in treatment before. The most common problems identified by the DISC were symptoms related to suicide (28%), social phobia (20%), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (19%), and oppositional defiant disorder (19%). Based on schools' recommendations, 82% of parents with DISC+ children agreed to make an appointment for a follow-up evaluation. Of DISC+ children whose parents agreed to seek further evaluation, 65% of them were evaluated by a health or mental health professional within 2 weeks.


Use of a computerized, evidence-based mental health assessment tool is a feasible strategy for providing early mental health identification services in schools and can help to bridge the gap between mental health providers and the unmet needs of children who are at risk for mental health problems within the community.

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