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Youth mental health screenings offered in Davis County

(Viewmont High School, the site of the first mental health screening. Credit: Paul Nelson)

BOUNTIFUL – Davis County is taking big steps to bring teen mental health and suicide prevention to the forefront.  They’re giving mental health screenings to families who feel their kids need one.

For years, suicide has been the leading cause of death for adolescents in Utah and also in Davis County.  Suicide prevention has been the county’s top health concern for six years, but, despite the effort the county is putting into this, the numbers are still disappointing.

“It’s devastating to see that our rates are not decreasing.  So, we are taking a hard look at what we’ve been doing,” says Isa Perry with the Davis County Health Department.

This is the third year that free mental health screenings have been offered for kids between the seventh and twelfth grades.  This year, they’re also giving screenings for kids in elementary schools.  Those are going to be given at the Davis Behavioral Health Center on October 1, and those appointments are already filled.

Perry says suicide is an extremely complex issue and many factors go into why someone considers it.  Their screenings focus on a child’s experiences with bullying, trauma, pornography, screen time and sleep.  Plus, Perry says they look for strengths, like a child’s resilience.

“It’s great to walk away knowing what concerns are there, but also knowing what strengths the student has that can be built upon,” she says.

They also look into how well a child is connected, socially, and they don’t mean how many friends they have on social media.

Perry says, “Social connectedness is important and we believe that’s in-person connections and valuable connections with family neighbors and school people.”

If a potential problem arises, there are healthy ways to talk about suicide prevention.  Perry says they call it QPR… question, persuade and refer.

“So, question them.  Are they thinking about suicide?  Persuade them.  ‘Can I be a support for you?  Can we talk about this?  Let’s put this on hold.’”

On Monday the 30th, KSL Newsradio is hosting a Teen Anxiety, Depression and Screen Time forum at the Salt Lake Community College Miller Campus in Sandy.