Mental Health Screening for Children and Adolescents



Pediatr Nurs. 2020;46(1):27-31. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


According to national organizations, mental health issues and suicide rates in adolescents are high, and children needing mental health care are not receiving it (National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2019; National Center for Children in Poverty, 2019; National Institute of Mental Health, 2019). Depression and adverse childhood experiences can occur in young children and can carry over into adulthood (Boullier & Blair, 2018). The purpose of this article is to highlight the current situation in children's mental health and present recommendations and opportunities for health care providers to intervene.


The most serious problem regarding children's mental health is probably the failure of health care professionals to detect and intervene to alleviate mental health problems children and adolescents face. Current statistics are based on adolescent and parent report, mostly by diagnosis. Per 100,000 of the U.S. population, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) (2019) related that adolescent mental health issues were reported at a prevalence of 45.3 in children aged 13 to 14 years, 49.3 in teens aged 15 to 16 years, and 56.7 in teens aged 17 to 18 years. The NIMH (2019) also found that suicide in the United States for individuals between the ages of 15 to 24 years had a prevalence of 220/100,000. NIMH (2019) also claims that just over half (50.3%) of children needing mental health care receive it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2019), 1 in 6 children aged 2 to 8 years have a diagnosed mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) (2019) states that 1 in 13 children between the ages of 13 and 18 years live with a mental health condition. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) (2019), 70% of children in foster care or the local juvenile justice system have a mental illness. Ghandour and colleagues (2019) identified mental, behavior, or developmental disorders in 1 in 6 children aged 2 to 8 years in their study of prevalence and treatment of depression, anxiety, and conduct problems in U.S. children.