The benefits of the survey can stretch beyond assessing the parental acceptability of mental health screenings in children and can suggest areas of optimization in providing these screenings more widely and effectively in the future.
Parents and caregivers expressed interest and acceptability for mental health screening of their offspring, with a preference toward following up with experts who could direct them to further treatment or evaluation, the results of a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association show.
The final sample of the survey population consisted of 972 parents or caregivers 21 years of age or older across 19 European or English-speaking countries. Respondents were queried across 5 sections: background and demographics, willingness to discuss mental health, screening administration method, screening benefits and feedback, and parental comfort with screening topics, the study authors explained.
A total of 895 participants (92.1%) reported that they wanted their child screened for mental health programs at regular intervals, the results of the study show. Annual screening was preferred by 631 participants (64.9%) and quarterly screening by 226 respondents (23.3%).
When analyzing the entire sample, participants were most willing to speak with physicians regarding the results of the screening (872 [89.7%]), followed by psychologists (743 [76.4%]). Only 46 participants (4.8%) were willing to discuss screening results with general office staff, the study investigators found.
The researchers observed slight variations across countries, with the most notable being participants’ willingness to speak with teachers (US, 113 [42.6%]; UK, 174 [61.7%]; Canada, 79 [46.2%]; other countries, 113 [44.5%]) and social workers (US, 94 [35.5%]; UK, 105 [37.2%]; Canada, 85 [49.7%]; other countries, 67 [26.4%]), according to the results of the study.
Across all data sources, 65% of participants expressed a willingness to discuss their child’s mental health with physicians (US, 253 [95.5%]; UK, 249 [88.3%]; Canada, 163 [95.3%]; other countries 207 [81.5%]) and psychologists (US, 209 [78.9%]; UK, 187 [66.3%]; Canada, 140 [81.9%]; other countries, 207 [81.5%]), the results of the survey show.
In comparison, less than 8% of respondents from each country were willing to discuss the results of their child’s screening assessment with general office staff (US, 13 [4.9%]; UK, 14 [5.0%]; Canada, 13 [7.6%]; other countries, 6 [2.4%]), according to the survey data.
Overall, parental preferences were centered around carrying out screenings on an annual basis, completing the screening in health care officers rather than at home—despite relatively high rates for at-home screening regardless—and for having physicians or psychologists review screening findings over social workers, office staff, or teachers, the investigators discussed.
In terms of content provided on a screening, the comfortability of parents and caregivers was dependent on screening content and report option (parent-report vs child self-report), but participants were generally comfortable with all 21 screening topics presented (mean [SE] Likert score range, 4.13 [0.06] to 5.30 [0.03]), the study authors explained.
Notably, the benefits of the study can stretch beyond assessing the acceptability of mental health screenings and can suggest areas of optimization in providing these screenings for the future, the investigators noted.
These include the minimization of workflow interruptions and time costs associated with screening by way of at-home screenings and increased efforts toward the education of parents and caregivers about the potential benefits and risks of screening to increase comfort levels regarding the screening process, according to the authors.
“This study suggests the need to engage both professionals and the public who may benefit from screening and some of the key factors (eg, screening topics, child age, country of residence, and report option) that may enhance the development of future programs to detect and intervene in mental disorders in youths,” the investigators concluded.
Kass M BA, Alexander L MPH, Moskowitz K BA, et al. Parental preferences for mental health screening of youths from a multinational survey. JAMA Netw Open.2023;6(6):e2318892. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.18892