UAMS to Screen Students for Suicide Risk

By todd

LITTLE ROCK – The Department of Psychiatry in the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) College of Medicine will implement the program TeenScreen this spring in two Arkansas schools, beginning in March with Catholic High School in Little Rock.


The TeenScreen Program, created by Columbia University, is a national mental health and suicide risk screening program for youth. Ninth graders at Catholic High School and Warren High School will be the first to participate in the program. No child is screened without parental consent. The results of the screen are confidential and no record of the screening is kept at the school or in the child’s records.


The Arkansas Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force is responsible for bringing TeenScreen to Arkansas. The task force was created by Act 1757 of 2005, sponsored by Senator Jimmy Jeffress of Crossett.


The goal of the National TeenScreen Program is to make voluntary mental health check-ups available for all American teens to assist in early identification of mental health problems, such as depression. TeenScreen works by assisting communities throughout the nation with developing locally operated and sustained screening programs for youth. Screening can take place in schools, doctors’ offices, clinics, youth groups, shelters, and other youth-serving organizations and settings.


Ann Brown and Ashley Hurst, both licensed clinical social workers, will be coordinating the clinical implementation of the program. Brown is an outpatient therapist in the Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry at UAMS and is the division administrator. Hurst is also an outpatient therapist in the division and is the program manager for the Programs for Young Adults. Ellon Cockrill, project program specialist for the department, is coordinating the outreach component of the program.


“We are very excited to be able to offer TeenScreen in Arkansas. By working with schools and getting consent from parents, we can reach many teens who may be struggling emotionally and get them the help they need,” said Lynn Taylor, M.D., an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UAMS and director of the Program for Young Adults.


Parents of youth found to be at possible risk are notified and helped with identifying and connecting to local mental health services where they can obtain further evaluation. Mental health screening can take place in many venues, including schools, clinics, doctors’ offices, juvenile justice facilities – anywhere teens are present.


The President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health recognized TeenScreen as a model program. Mental health screening finds young people with depression and other emotional disorders before they fall behind in school, end up in serious trouble, or worst of all, end their lives.


This mission is supported by 34 national organizations including the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Federation of Teachers, and the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health.


The TeenScreen Program does not recommend or endorse any particular kind of treatment for the youth who are identified by the mental health screening.


TeenScreen is funded by private foundations, individuals and organizations committed to the early identification of mental illness in youth and the prevention of teen suicide. The national TeenScreen Program is not affiliated with or funded by any pharmaceutical companies.


UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, five centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has about 2,320 students and 690 medical residents. It is one of the state’s largest public employers with almost 9,000 employees, including nearly 1,000 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital and the VA Medical Center. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $4.3 billion a year.