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MADISON — Wisconsin’s Office of Children’s Mental Health (OCMH) is working to assist youth in the state who are impacted by mental illness symptoms or conditions through universal screening.

Universal screenings work to identify and address anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts occurring among youth in Wisconsin, as a way to then connect those individuals to resources.

According to the OCMH, it’s estimated that 50% of all mental illnesses begin by age 14, and 75% by age 24.

Youth are impacted by the shortage of mental health professionals, financial obstacles and social stigma leading to a lack of mental health care.

OCMH would like to implement this important strategy that assesses the well-being of Wisconsin’s youth in schools and doctors’ offices to check on how all children are feeling, including those who do not display symptoms of mental distress.

Pinpointing mental health conditions can help prevent mental illness in adulthood and equip people with support.

Screening will also help children identify what resources and skills they already have, and what strengths they can draw on, to cope with challenges in their lives, according to the OCMH.

“Being mentally healthy is more than the absence of illness. It is the ability to manage stress, cope with setbacks, and develop resilient mindsets. Developing mental well-being is critical for all kids,” said Linda Hall, Director of the OCMH. “If we were to make mental health screening universal and as routine as vision screening, we’d not only improve early detection and be able to intervene before a child is in crisis, but we’d also be saving money by using less intensive, costly services.”

Taking action to support universal screenings

The OCMH has developed a new fact sheet as well as offering the following as ways the community can support universal screenings including:

  • Parents can opt-in, allowing their children to participate in mental health screens.
  • Pediatric providers can make mental health screens as routine as vision and hearing checks.
  • Schools can start screening in one grade and build up over time to reach more children. Begin with a pilot and cultivate support.
  • Policymakers can fund universal mental health screening in schools.
  • Policymakers can require health insurance companies to cover annual mental health screens, as is done for annual physicals.

Mental health universal screening fact sheet

Learn more about supporting universal screenings by reading the June 2023 fact sheet.

What are 5 signs of mental health problems?

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are several indicators that your child may be struggling with mental health problems. For more information, visit their website.

  • Persistent sadness that lasts two weeks or more
  • Withdrawing from or avoiding social interactions
  • Out-of-control behavior that can be harmful
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Changes in academic performance


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