Graduation Year

2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Psychological and Social Foundations

Major Professor

Shannon Suldo

Co-Major Professor

Linda Raffaele Mendez

Committee Member

John Ferron

Committee Member

Richard B. Weinberg

Keywords

Anxiety, Depression, Mental Health, Teacher Nominations, Universal Screener

Abstract

Internalizing disorders, specifically depression and anxiety, affect up to 18% and 33% of youth, respectively (Costello, Egger, & Angold, 2005b). Schools have become a major provider of mental health services to children, primarily in attempts to overcome barriers to receiving community services (Farmer, Burns, Philip, Angold, & Costello, 2003). As such, it is important that schools have effective mechanisms in place to accurately identify students who may be in need of such services. The current study examined the accuracy of one such method, educator nominations (including from both teachers and school-based mental health professionals) in identifying students who self-report elevated levels of anxiety and/or depression. Participants were 238 fourth and fifth grade students within a large, urban school district in a southeastern state; 26 classroom teachers of these youth; and 7 mental health professionals who served the two schools that the student participants attended. Regarding sensitivity, teachers identified 40.74% and 50% of students who repeatedly reported clinically elevated levels of anxiety and depression, respectively. Teachers falsely identified as symptomatic 17.54% and 16.2% of students with typical levels of anxiety and depression, respectively. As a team, school-based mental health professionals identified 66.67% of students with elevated anxiety symptoms, and 45.45% of children who self-reported depressive symptoms. The team misidentified 31% and 35% of students as depressed and anxious, respectively. Individual school-based mental health professionals were less accurate (as compared to ix the team as a whole) in identifying students who self-reported symptoms of depression. Taken together, findings suggest educators can accurately identify approximately half to two-thirds of youth who experience clinical levels of anxiety and children, but substantial misidentification rates underscore the need for further follow-up assessment of students identified during educational nomination procedures. Implications for practice, contributions to the literature, and future directions for research are discussed.

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