Can Early Mental Health Screening Predict Suicide In Children?

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  • Recent research provides insights into the mental health crisis in children.
  • Experts contend that mental health screening for children can aid in addressing their psychological problems in the long run.

Mental Health Issues In Children

Mental health disorders amongst young children and adolescents are at an all-time high. Moreover, studies show that suicide is one of the leading causes of death in late childhood and adolescence worldwide.

Across countries, on average, 20.3% of the younger population commits suicide, 5.7% ideates suicide, and 4.7% make suicide attempts in the course of one year. Experts claim that this suicidality in the young population is closely linked to an unaddressed mental health crisis, as most children attempting suicide usually suffer from:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Emotional dysfunction
  • Gender dysphoria
  • Eating disorders
  • Self-harm
  • Feelings of sadness, anger, confusion, etc.

Causes Of Poor Mental Health In Children

The central factor for suicide in children is poor mental health and it is related to several causes, including:

  • Childhood abuse
  • Experiences of trauma
  • Bullying
  • Family conflict
  • Parental neglect
  • Social adjustment
  • Peer problems
  • Self-esteem issues
  • Illness and disability, etc.

Mental Health Screening For Suicide In Children

Research reveals that routine screening for anxiety and depression can help in preventing suicide in younger children and teenagers. However, experts, researchers, and medical practitioners also acknowledge the difficulty of formulating screening tools for children as young as 10 years of age.

In these cases, usually the mental health symptoms are self-reported or reported by parental figures and such ‘reports’ lack the validity and surety of empirical diagnostic tools.

Additionally, early mental health screening for children is plagued by prejudice. With mental health extremely stigmatized, people feel that testing negative in a given time frame rules out the possibility of future issues.

This is observed especially in cases of depressive and anxiety disorders wherein the symptoms change quickly. Therefore, in a way, early mental health screening cannot accurately predict suicidal tendencies in children.

Julie Cerel, a licensed American psychologist, explains: “Just because a teen passes a depression screening does not mean the adults around them should not get them help if they see extreme changes in mood or behavior.

Benefits Of Children’s Mental Health Screening

Despite the predominant view that early diagnosis tools cannot accurately predict suicidal or self-harm tendencies in children, research attests to the benefits of timely mental health screening in the younger populace, particularly the prevention of:

  • Health-related reduced quality of life
  • Impaired social functioning
  • Unhealthy lifestyles and coping strategies
  • Drastic behavioral and cognitive changes
  • False-positive results
  • Lost time and money
  • Overdiagnosis and overtreatment of health disorders, etc.

Mental Health Support For Children

The first step toward providing mental health support to your children is acknowledging that they can and are having mental health problems. Make note of their behavioral changes (like lack of appetite or loss of sleep) and try holding proper mental health conversations with them.

Communicate openly and honestly with them, without judgment. If needed, help them avail therapy and develop healthy self-help coping strategies for recovery.

Remember, this support can go a long way in helping your children lead happier, more fulfilling lives.

Know More About –

  1. Bullying
  2. Eating Disorders
  3. Anxiety

Related Articles –

  1. 14 Signs A Child Is Struggling With Their Mental Health
  2. 12 Ways to Empower Your Child Against Bullying
  3. Mental Health Wellness Guide For Your Child
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