A large grant for a Minnesota school district may result in depression screenings of its high school students. Anoka-Hennepin School District just received a $370,000 state grant that they plan to use to screen students in class for depression and anxiety, CBS Local in Minnesota reports. This state grant is designed to improve mental health services. Anoka-Hennepin, the largest school district in Minnesota, could offer screenings beginning next fall.
Dr. Nita Kumar is a mental health consultant for the district and says this type of testing may get students to open up and talk about things they normally wouldn’t share at home — or at school.
“Mental health impacts overall health and school performance,” Kumar says.
Several doctors’ offices screen depression using the PHQ9 form for their patients. This form will be used if the school goes this route in screening students. The questionnaire requires the parents’ permission and would be given to 10th graders in health class. No scores are given from teachers; a healthcare professional would be responsible for scoring them, and then he or she would make recommendations based on that.
Kumar says at the sophomore age, adolescents are “starting to take some more responsibility for their own health” developmentally.
“We are able to make sure they get adequate care as early as possible,” Kumar continues.
According to the report, suicide is the second leading cause of death in teens after accidents in Minnesota
What’s more, the Star Tribune writes that depression screenings are voluntary and results wouldn’t be offered immediately in the same way other health testing in schools are. Depression screenings would take longer and require a harder look at the individual’s mental state.
The report also mentions a 2013 Minnesota Student Survey that revealed 44 percent of Anoka County female students in the 11th grade experienced feelings of hopelessness. At least 16 percent considered suicide.
Seven students from the Anoka-Hennipen School District committed suicide between 2009 and 2011. Implementing depression screenings is believed to help students take a positive step towards being healthier and getting “adequate care” as soon as possible, Kumar adds.
Many students and adults think the idea is a good one. It gives students a chance to reveal how they feel or express what they’re battling as a means of letting it out, so to speak. By all accounts, the depression screenings are supposed to give adolescents an opportunity to feel safe about sharing their state of mind.
[Image via CBS Minnesota]