DAVIS COUNTY (ABC4 News) – There’s an increasing need in mental health services for elementary-aged children in Davis County, exemplified through a free mental health screening event scheduled for Tuesday night that’s already full and has been full for two weeks.
According to the Davis4Health Community Health Assessment 2018 report, suicide is the leading cause of death among youth ages 10 to 17 in Utah. The Utah Department of Health observed a 141.3 percent increase in youth suicides in this age bracket from 2011 to 2015.
Davis4Health Coordinator Isa Perry said a group of Davis County agencies have been conducting free mental health screenings for middle and high school students for the past two years. They provided screenings for 67 students in 2017, 65 students in 2018, and then 72 this year.
This year will be the first year that they’re holding an event specifically geared towards preschool and elementary-aged students. Mental health therapists from Davis Behavioral Health will be available during a two-hour time frame at their location Tuesday night.
Marty Hood, the Director of Children and Youth Programs at Davis Behavioral Health said experts will be looking at a variety of concerning factors that could impact a child’s mental health.
Some of those categories include:
- Abuse (emotional, physical, and sexual)
- Neglect (emotional and physical)
- Household challenges (domestic violence, substance abuse, mental illness, separation/divorce, and incarcerated household member)
“If we can catch this early or if someone can make sense of a traumatic event for a child, then they don’t have to keep it inside and have it gnaw at them,” said Hood. “The earlier a child can learn to handle something and develop coping skills, the earlier they’ll learn not to get discouraged and hopeless.”
Hood said warning signs can sometimes be hard to read among preschool and elementary-aged children because their minds and communication skills are still developing.
“But once a symptom is getting in the way of their daily life and they don’t understand it or you don’t understand it, it’s important to get them in to see someone,” said Hood.
Although Tuesday night’s event is full, Perry said no one will be turned away. Each year, she said at least $3,300 in grant funding is needed for supplies, promotional materials, mental health directories, and more.
“The events are resource-intensive in other ways – Paid staff time coordinating, volunteers, training, screening tool development/fee for service, etc. We estimate there are at least 25 mental health professional volunteer at each event. Other types of professionals are also engaged as volunteers. We have more than 50 volunteers at each event,” said Perry.
When asked if another free mental health screening event will be held in the near future as a result of the high response, Perry said it was unlikely, but they may consider serving more students at next year’s event.
“These decisions will be made after this years events when the planning team has time to review successes, results, lessons learned, etc. It may be that community organizations have internal capacity to offer a similar service on an ongoing basis. This possibility will be explored and evaluated as well. We hope to come up with specific directions for families who would like a similar service in between events,” she said.
Health officials said families who cannot attend events are encouraged to seek help using the Davis County Youth Services Directory, containing nearly 150 local services such as medical treatment, counseling, self-care, support groups, classes, and crisis lines.