Mental Health and Behavioral Health Assessments for Youth in Crisis

youth in crisis

If your teenager is exhibiting extreme agitation or aggression, a residential treatment center may be an option. These programs provide long-term care and live-in treatment for youth in crisis.

A comprehensive mental health assessment will allow professionals to identify the underlying causes of your teenager’s crisis. This allows for a more effective treatment plan.

1. Comprehensive Mental Health Assessment

Mental health assessments are critical to understanding a client’s condition and creating an appropriate treatment plan. Mental health professionals gather a thorough medical, family and social history to identify possible causes of their client’s psychological symptoms.

This includes identifying and monitoring the client’s ability to adhere to their medical and psychiatric treatment. This is done through a client orientation process that is culturally sensitive and linguistically appropriate.

It is not uncommon for clients to feel embarrassed about their need for therapy or to be concerned that their friends and family members might hold stigmatizing views about their condition. To help overcome these concerns, many mental health services offer advocacy support for clients who are seeking treatment. These advocates can be volunteers, like those at mental health charities, or professionals, like lawyers.

2. Personalized Care

A personalized approach to care provides an opportunity for consumers to feel seen, heard and empowered. It can help them to better manage their condition, achieve better outcomes and reduce unplanned follow-up care costs.

Solid personalization efforts are based on quality data and a strong understanding of the health consumer’s preferences, motivations and goals. This includes an accurate and complete understanding of their medical history, current health status, family history, lifestyle and risk factors.

It also requires a deep understanding of the impact of social circumstances, such as housing, income, relationships and support networks. This broader context enables clinicians to make informed recommendations that are tailored to the individual.

3. Safety

Youth often give warning signs of their distress, such as feelings of hopelessness or suicidal thoughts. It’s critical that adults and peers pick up on these signals and take them seriously.

In the Covid-19 era, young people face debilitating mental health challenges that threaten their well-being and educational success. Persistently sad or hopeless feelings are among the many factors that have contributed to a youth mental health crisis declared by the surgeon general in 2021.

Frustration over lack of upward socioeconomic mobility is a major factor for thousands of disenchanted youth who seek refuge by fleeing to Europe in search of work (see Migration feature). Other risk factors that contribute to delinquency include neglectful parenting, learning problems, poverty, drugs and alcohol abuse, unstable homes, community violence, social isolation, and gang involvement. Collective programs that address multiple protective factors can have a significant impact on delinquency prevention.

4. Step-Down Care

A crisis care facility should work to ensure the discharge process goes smoothly for both youth and family. This includes providing a clear plan for maintaining safety, individualized resources, and post-crisis follow-up appointments with an outpatient clinic of the youth’s choice.

If the BHMP decides that a higher level of care is not necessary, the facility should offer a step down treatment. This treatment, usually in a hospital setting, can include individual and family therapy, social skills training, and coping and medication management.

Youth should be able to meet with their therapist and family/caregiver(s) on a daily basis in an observation unit designed to promote comfort. This may include a quiet room painted with calming colors, small divider walls to help provide privacy, and daily schedules that highlight important information like visiting times.

5. Family Support

Family support services include community-based organizations that assist families of children and youth with mental or behavioral health challenges. Often, these are family-run organizations with members who share lived experience and offer support to other families as advocates, navigators and allies.

Families who have children and youth with psychiatric or substance use disorder can also access family peer support, a service that provides a structured, strength-based relationship between a trained family peer advocate (FPA) and a parent/caregiver to address concerns and build skills. Family Peer Support Services also offer education and training.

Families may also find help and support through mentoring programs such as Best Buddies or Big Brothers or through local community organizations. Additionally, there are national organizations that provide lists of support groups in a family’s region.