Central Oregon to Get Online Help for Troubled Teens
October 10, 2005—Portland, Oregon—Central Oregon teens and their parents should benefit from a new mental health service about to go online. The project, called "Know Your Teen" is being launched by the Mentor Research Institute of Portland, Oregon.
StepOne for Parents will provide mental health screening followed by parenting seminars and referral support for some parents of troubled teenagers. Nationally, nearly 1 out of 5 high school students have a diagnosable behavioral or psychological problem that interferes with peer, school or family functioning. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people. Among American high school students, 17% (3.4 million) report having thought seriously about killing themselves in the past year and 9% (1.8 million) report having made a prior suicide attempt.
Parents will complete a comprehensive questionnaire on the Internet. Their answers will be analyzed by a powerful computer program called StepOne Online. Private reports can be displayed and printed immediately on their computers, all at no charge. Reports are very detailed, useful and range from 16 to 30 pages in length.
This new tool for mental health screening is endorsed by the board of directors of the National Coalition of Mental Health Professionals and Consumers. The Coalition board said StepOne should “provide a useful and effective means to bring families and adolescents to the clinical care they need.” StepOne is designed to identify potential problems and to give parents a “voice” when they seek help for suspected problems that can be difficult to explain. According to the developers, StepOne provides a behavioral health “report card” based on what parents see and know about their child. This is often much more reliable and useful than what children will tell you; especially if they are distrusting, in trouble or out of control.
In addition to the screening reports, Mentor Research Institute’s program will give parents referral information if they feel their children need help. To prevent local mental health services from being overwhelmed, the number of adolescents to be screened will be limited.
The program recommends that parents review their reports with a qualified counselor, health care or mental health care professional. Program developers and caregivers will be available to review results and discuss parents’ general concerns during a series of free seminars. Along with their results, the computer generated reports will offer times, dates and locations of the seminars. An information fair at the end of the seminars is planned to connect parents with appropriate youth service programs, professionals, and parenting experts.
Crisis Intervention with Adolescents, a guidebook for parents of troubled teens, will be available for purchase by program participants as well as people who cannot or do not wish to use the online service.
Dr. Michaele Dunlap, president of Mentor Research Institute and a Portland psychologist, emphasized that StepOne is a screening program, not a diagnostic service. Diagnosis requires face-to-face evaluation. StepOne, as its name suggests, is only a first step for worried parents. It gives them necessary information and can help connect them with professional help if that is needed.
The StepOne Online computer program will perform several million tasks in a fraction of a second. It would take five hours to interview a parent and produce these results. This can save counselors, physicians and psychologists a great deal of time and make their work more thorough. A parent completing the questionnaire can save three or more appointments with a mental health professional.
MRI’s project answers calls from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Surgeon General, and the President to find new ways to involve, educate, and empower parents of children with problems.
StepOne’s developers want people to understand that the cost of screening children is much lower and safer than doing nothing. Screening is the first step in identifying potential problems, controlling adolescent anti-social behavior and reducing the number of children who attempt suicide each year. It can also re-assure parents when their problems are minimal.
There are 14 completed adolescent suicides per day counted by the U.S. Center for Disease Control. National research and State of Oregon Healthy Teen surveys estimate that approximately 5 to 9% of children between the age of 11 and 17 attempt suicide each year. When you consider there are some 7800 students in the Bend LaPine school district that is about one suicide attempt on the average per day.
Central Oregon media, youth services, and medical clinics are working together with MRI in StepOne. Bend’s Combined Communications, Inc. and KLRR 101.7 FM are promoting the project. The project seeks to provide screening services, intervention and to determine how the use of radio broadcasting can support and promote children's mental health in rural areas.
Corrected/Revised: November 2, 2005, December 24, 2005
Mentor Research Institute is a non-profit educational and research organization with a focus on mental health for youth and families; homelessness, effective intervention, public and professional education.
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