Clinics offering mental health screenings for kids going back to school

As kids get their physicals, preparing to head back to school in a few weeks, some clinics are offering tests to check for kids' mental health as well. 

The Texas Family Pediatric group in Sugar Land is one of many clinic groups that now screen kids through a questionnaire to help detect mental health problems early.

The Pediatric Symptom Checklist has a list of 35 statements where kids can simply answer "never, sometimes or often" to statements like "'teases others, blames others for his or her troubles, is irritable or angry."

Dr. Shereen Alikhan said the Texas Family Pediatric group has been offering the Pediatric Symptom Checklist for kids as young as 12 years old, for several years. 

"It's not just a physical of your body. Your brain and your mental health and your emotional health, that's all going into what used to just be a physical, which is why sometimes we call it a wellness check," Dr. Alikhan said.

Dr. Alikhan said the Pediatric Symptom Checklist helps parents and pediatricians detect early warning signs of anxiety or depression in kids, which many times, may end up being a direct result of bullying. 

Dr. Alikhan adds that by having kids simply answer "never, sometimes, or often" to statements like "'has trouble sleeping, does not show feelings, or teases others,'" also helps kids open up to parents and medical professionals about any, larger underlying problems. 

"All the avenues you can use to help them deal with that can only assist the process. I think this is a way to reach out to these children a little bit as a basic screen to see if there's anything that's alarming or anything that they need to talk a little bit further," Dr. Alikhan said.

Many parents said it's a useful tool that helps open the conversation of mental health with their kids. 

"Most kids are not very open to their parents and they don't have that communication," said Juliana Varro.

"It's very important to discuss a lot of issues with the children before they start school so then they will come to you if they have that problem," Connie Bazaria said.

At the end of the survey, kids' answers are calculated by the pediatrician and if they rank above or below a certain score, the pediatrician may recommend them to seek additional counseling.