At the beginning of each fall semester, Highland Park High School freshmen take home a letter and permission slip to their parents for the option to participate in a confidential mental health screening.
This screening, Teens Can Survive, formally called Teen Screen, is administered via a computer program and results are audited by licensed professional counselors from the Suicide & Crisis Center of North Texas (SCC). The only way a participant can be identified is by their student ID.
The screening is not designed to diagnose the student; rather, it identifies suicidal ideation, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, and substance use, according to HPHS personal counselor Dr. Candice Conner. The results are given straight to Conner and SCC wipes its records.
“At Highland Park, I remember the first time I handed a list of screened students to the main counselor, and she looked at it and she said under her breath, ‘Oh, I had no idea,’” said Margie Wright, the executive director of the SCC.
The screening is what Wright describes as a point-in-time snapshot. It’s meant to alert counselors to students who are currently struggling, but may not have spoken to anyone.
“I don’t need your red flag kids. I need the ones that nobody suspects,” Wright said. “And that’s what the screening was designed to do. It really does catch the kids that are under the radar.”