Screening Tools

Has your child ever gone to the doctor for a routine physical and while waiting they were asked to complete some surveys? Did these surveys ever containing sensitive questions?

If this has happened, most likely your child completed a screening questionnaire. A screening tool, such as the PHQ-9 (or patient health questionnaire) asks a series of questions that have been shown in the research to help identify when an individual might be experiencing symptoms of a health condition, like depression or anxiety. Then at the end all the responses are totaled for a final score, which helps interpret the symptoms. PHQ9 (2)

It’s important to know that while screening is very useful, it’s only a starting point. These tools can help initiate a conversation with your child or with their doctor. Screening tools cannot be used to make a diagnosis, but rather let your  child’s doctor know to ask additional questions. Only by talking to a professional, and usually more than just one time, can someone figure out if they have a mental health condition.

Also, the results from a screening tool will only be helpful if all the questions are answered honestly. It is important for your child to read through the questionnaire slowly and pay special attention to the specified time period to which the questions refer.  Sometimes it can be difficult for your child to talk to their doctor about the signs and symptoms they’re experiencing, perhaps because of the stigma about mental illnesses.  Therefore, it is helpful to remind your child that many symptoms can be treated, especially when identified early. Mental illnesses have specific signs and symptoms, and when left alone, symptoms can become more serious. Mental health checkups are just as important as a physical checkup.

Your child can also screen themselves by taking a screening tool online (click here for the screening tool in Spanish). This can be a great starting point for them to assess and educate themselves about the symptoms they are experiencing. Then your child can discuss any concerns with you or a professional, such as their primary care physician or school counselor.

Lastly, we often only go to the doctor when we are not physically feeling our best.  For example, if we are tired (or have a lack of energy) or have changes in our diet, or our bodies ache, we are more likely to go to the doctor. We do not necessarily seek out an appointment with our physician for our mental health.  However, some of the physical symptoms that make us schedule a doctor’s visit, can be symptoms of depression or anxiety (or another condition).  For more information, please talk to your child’s doctor or another health care professional about screening tools.

Has your child ever taken a screening questionnaire at the doctor’s office or on their own?  If you’re comfortable, we would love to hear your (and their) experience or if you have any questions about the subject’s of today’s post.  Leave us a comment below!

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