screening for mental health risk factors for our kids

THE REDMOND REPORTER is our local paper here in Redmond, Washington. It’s a typical smalltown paper: twenty pages with local news and advertisements. Unfortunately, I rarely pay any attention to it, but yesterday it was brought to my attention by an article on the front page of the September 7, 2108, edition.

The article was titled “Universal mental health screenings to be introduced in local middle schools.” This move is being coordinated with Youth Eastside Services (YES) in response to the local suicide rate among teens, which “has increased by about 18% in the last decade.” Unlike many communities, substance abuse (a term too vague to pack a wallop) in our area has held steady during the same time.

YES will assist several school districts with a universal screening of local middle school students for mental health and substance-use risk factors:

“Through the Best Starts for Kids initiative, the Check Yourself Tool will begin screening seventh grade students for mental health and substance use risk factors in Bellevue School District and Lake Washington School District middle schools. Other King County school districts are either considering implementing it or are in some phase of implementing it in the future.”

As a relatively new grandfather, I’m in favor of the intentions of the above, but given that our school districts embraced the ridiculous D.A.R.E. program and hung on to it for years after most of the country abandoned it, I am trepidatious about things.


Screening: cartoon about the "black dog" of depression.

“We need to talk about the Black Dog in the room. The one that lurks in the dark corners, doggedly gnawing away at some of our consciousness. The one that snuggles up coyly, shying away from the light, for fear of exposure and its attendant shame. The one whose power accretes in the dark, and claims a life more often than you would like to believe. The Black Dog’s name is Depression.” (Treehouse)

Try the impossible

Common issues with people of any age who tend toward suicide are depression, loneliness—and here I mean lack of actual physical and social contact with fellow human beings—and ever-present anxiety.

So my suggestion is to try the impossible: convince the parents in our society to withhold all access to anything computer-related from their children until those children have reached voting age!

Let’s make it illegal for Americans under the age of 18 to use computers:

•  No home computers!
•  No laptops!
•  No video games!
•  No smartphones!

And while we’re at it, no electronic calculators, either!

Not only will this be enforced at home and in school, but police will be able to make arrests of teens caught illegally using computers. Hell, maybe it will stop them from shooting people.

Of course, I’m not holding my breath that anything I’ve suggested will ever come to fruition . . .


Screening: photo of teens focused on their smartphones and nothing else.

FEATURED IMAGE: I found the photo at the top of this page accompanying the article “Less smartphone time equals happier teenager, study suggests” by Melissa Healy on The Los Angeles Times website. Here are the first few paragraphs:

“A precipitous drop in the happiness, self-esteem and life satisfaction of American teens came as their ownership of smartphones rocketed from zero to 73% and they devoted an increasing share of their time online.

Coincidence? New research suggests it is not.

In a study published Monday in the journal Emotion, psychologists from San Diego State University and the University of Georgia used data on mood and media culled from roughly 1.1 million U.S. teens to figure out why a decades-long rise in happiness and satisfaction among U.S. teens suddenly shifted course in 2012 and declined sharply over the next four years.”