Youth in crisis are often suffering from a mental health disorder such as depression. They may also be struggling with harmful behaviors such as substance abuse or self-harm.
This situation can be devastating for the youth in question and their family. However, there are resources available to help them through this difficult time.
Identifying the Crisis
There are a variety of situations and events that can trigger the onset of a crisis. Some common ones include a loss of a loved one, a major disaster, physical, sexual or verbal abuse, and even mental health concerns like depression or anxiety.
Youth who are disenchanted by their circumstances have the potential to become maladaptive and destructive, leading to a range of negative outcomes for themselves and others. Often, these teenagers experience a wide spectrum of emotions and struggle to control them.
Developing the skills to cope and seek support is critical for young people in a crisis to recover from their condition and thrive. However, a delay in treatment can have both short and long-term consequences on their well-being.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recommends that crisis care providers work in partnership with agencies across the continuum of care for children and youth, including schools, family and peer support, community organizations, child welfare and foster care, juvenile justice and pediatricians and other primary care providers.
Assessing the Acuity of the Crisis
Young people face numerous challenges around the world, and in developing economies they are often the most vulnerable. Unemployment has risen dramatically, and young people are often the ones most at risk of finding themselves unemployed in an economy with shrinking economic prospects.
This has a negative impact on their mental health, their social development, and their future employment opportunities. It also impacts their ability to cope with the consequences of a crisis or disaster and contribute to the overall recovery of the economy.
To assist clinicians, a scale was developed for community-based evaluation of crisis acuity. The Crisis Acuity Scale (CA) is a semi-structured interview and rating format that assesses key domains of functioning, physical health, service use, and psychosocial factors to provide a basis for assessing an individual’s needs and preferences. Clinically significant internal consistency and interrater reliability were found with convergent, discriminant, and predictive validity. The CA is an important tool for the identification of youth in crisis and provides clinicians with an evidence-based tool to assess their acuity and recommend appropriate care.
Assessing the Safety of the Youth
In order to effectively respond to a youth in crisis, practitioners must be able to assess their safety. This requires a careful analysis of a young person’s current situation and the risk factors that increase their potential for harm.
The assessment should focus on the immediate physical, social and emotional wellbeing of a youth. It should also consider their safety networks – the network of people who are there for them in times of need.
A comprehensive assessment will require input from a range of youth and family members, as well as community resources. This assessment process will help to identify a youth’s strengths and vulnerabilities, as well as determining the best way to mitigate these risks.
The assessment should use tools that are based on a conceptual model of the significant relationship between primary risk factors and delinquency (Hoge 2005). A clinical tool, such as the Early Assessment Risk List, Structured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth, or the Youth Level of Service/Case Management Inventory, will be used to develop an intervention plan featuring suitable interventions at an intensity based on the level of risk.
Assessing the Need for Treatment
Adolescents are at a sensitive age and are highly vulnerable to health problems. They may be struggling with stress, trauma, grief, guilt, shame, and a number of other challenges, all of which can affect their mental health.
Youth in crisis often lose their ability to manage these challenges, which can lead them to become suicidal. This is why it is important to assess for the need for treatment as soon as possible after a crisis occurs.
This can be done through a variety of means. Some hospitals may have a crisis stabilization program that provides short-term treatment to children in need.
Other types of programs include residential settings and telehealth services. Many teens are comfortable using mobile technology, and telehealth can be an effective way to reach them without having to travel. This is especially useful for those in crisis who are unable to come to the hospital or other facility. These youth can connect with mental health professionals through a videoconference.