Should Mental Health Screenings Be Done in Schools?

January 2, 2017 Becky Oberg

Because of my youth, I wonder whether mental health screenings should be done in schools. Much of my childhood was spent being shuttled from doctor to doctor in an effort to figure out what was wrong with me (Why Can Mental Illness Be So Hard to Diagnose?). Everyone agreed there was some kind of mental health condition, but no one could decide on a treatment. So most of my childhood was spent depressed with occasional bouts of psychosis. This led me to ask, "Should mental health screenings be done in schools, just as vision and scoliosis screenings are?"

The Advantages of Mental Health Screenings in Schools

Mental health screenings could result in earlier treatment and increased recovery rates. But should mental health screenings be done in schools? Read this.If we treat mental illness as something that can be detected by a routine screening, stigma, the leading barrier to treatment, will lessen. I dream of the day when having a mental illness is no more stigmatized than wearing glasses. We are long overdue for a dialogue about mental illness--and screenings for mental health are the way to start that dialogue. Like many other chronic conditions, early detection and intervention are crucial to recovery. Screenings would make this possible (Early Warning Signs of Mental Illness).

As a child, I did not know what was happening to me--no one told me anything about what was going on. While we learned about mental illness in our health class, I found myself suspecting I had one. All I knew was the suicidal thoughts weren't normal. I often wonder if a screening would have caught my illness and made it easier for treatment professionals to give me a diagnosis. I also wonder if my parents could have found support if the school detected mental illness and got me hooked up with treatment.

Yes, it's a controversial idea. Yes, it's uncomfortable. But the advantages of mental health screenings far outweigh the disadvantages.

After Mental Health Screenings, Schools Should Support Students

This goes without saying, but schools should support students with a diagnosis. This could be done by assigning the student to a guidance counselor, making staff aware of the student's condition and training them how to respond when a student was triggered, training the student in coping skills and conflict resolution, and so on. The school should not look for an excuse to get rid of the student.

When I was diagnosed in college, the university intervened when I became suicidal--by suspending me from class and evicting me from the dorms until I could be reinstated by the dean. (Exactly how this was supposed to help me is a mystery.) They were also hesitant to let me seek treatment at the university's counseling center, saying that long-term therapy was best done off campus. After my diagnosis, the university seemed to be constantly looking over my shoulder for a reason to expel me. For example, after Columbine, they did a no-knock, no warrant search of my room to look for weapons. Rather than supporting me, the university became hostile. This is not the way it should be.

Schools should be a safe place for everyone, and every student should have a trusted adult they can go to, especially after a mental illness diagnosis is made. Life is hard enough with a diagnosis--we don't need people looking for an excuse to discriminate against us.

Routine Mental Health Screening at School Leads to Effective Treatment

The good news is treatment works. Routine mental health screenings would back up this fact. The more sick people we refer to treatment, the more recovery we'll see. Even the "hopeless" cases such as mine can get better. I may never be able to hold down a full-time job. But I can hold down a part-time job, live on my own, stay sober, stay on my medications, and use healthy coping skills. That is my version of recovery.

The right combination of medication and therapy is out there. Remember, what works for me may not work for you. One man's meat is another man's poison. Routine screenings would allow for early detection and intervention, lower stigma by making it easier to know when to seek help, and help all parties involved come up with a plan.

What do you think? Should mental health screenings be done in schools? Leave a message in the comments.

You can also find Becky Oberg on Google+, Facebook and Twitter and Linkedin.

APA Reference
Oberg, B. (2017, January 2). Should Mental Health Screenings Be Done in Schools?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Becky Oberg

Blanca Reyna
October, 23 2019 at 2:24 am

Absolutely not ok to have minors undergo mental health screenings in a public school! They are simply entrusted to teach our kids academics such as spelling, reading and math! Teachers nor school administrators are not qualified to intervene nor diagnose mental health disorders. Would the schools even have funding to treat these kids? It’s ridiculous.

Dr Musli Ferati
January, 6 2017 at 2:33 am

Your proposal on mental screening during the process of schooling indicates great pace and undertaking on comprehensive psychiatric treatment and management of mental disorders, whenever and at any place. Indeed, this suggestion is in close concordance with crucial principles of mental hygiene, as important contribute to up to date mental health service. On other words, early detection of any metal disorder underline successful psychiatric treatment with satisfying outcomes. When it is known that many serious mental disorder begin at school age, then the necessity to mental health screening becomes so important help. But the real situation in worldwide education system is very obscure toward mental pathology of any pupil/student with any mental disorder. Stigma and many others social prejudices against psychiatric entities encompass another hard barrier to accomplish mental health screening in schools. These and others socio-cultural impediments are substantial imperative to detect any condition disorder at childhood age, respectively adolescent subjects. This undertaking requires systematic and profound engagement of educational and healthy sector with dedicated support of all others social and government factors where universal psycho-education takes primary place and role.

January, 2 2017 at 4:04 am

I would say no. Something tells me that with money involved there would be millions of diagnosis and billions in meds prescribed. Diabetes is life threatening but my GAD isn't. Our medical system even with its problems is still the best. I wouldn't change it too much.

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