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Identify Students At-Risk

In order to assist students who experience mental health problems, campuses must first identify students who are considered by professionals to be high-risk or at current risk for compromised mental health and wellness. Screening and identification refers to a set of strategies aimed at identifying these students. These activities often consist of educational programs that provide students or gatekeepers with information about the nature of mental problems, ways to identify the signs of distress, and how to obtain mental health services or other supports. To accompany these activities, campuses can also train key personnel in issues related to confidentiality, notification, and legal issues. Although campuses can use a variety of screening tools and techniques, their underlying goal in doing so is to identify, as early as possible, students who need additional support and services or those who would benefit from intervention.

Screening activities can focus on numerous aspects of student health. Campuses can implement screening and identification activities to measure overall student mental health or detect the presence of symptoms associated with a specific psychological disorder. For example, some institutions may be interested in assessing general student wellbeing in terms of perceived stress or maladjustment. Others may be interested in knowing how often specific mental health problems like depression, anxiety, or suicidal ideation are occurring within the student population.

Screening activities can also be targeted to specific student groups, especially those that may be more likely to experience mental health problems. These high-risk groups may include freshman or other students coming to campus for the first time, international students, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender students (GLBT), and substance-abusing students, among several others.

To achieve maximum benefit, campuses can use a combination of screening activities, delivered throughout the school year, to identify students in need of additional support or mental health services. These programs can be implemented at specific points during the semester, such as during new student orientation or exam periods when the potential to reach many students is great. They may also be implemented throughout the course of the academic year during routine physical health screenings or assessments.

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