Whole school screening of emotional health risk: the reliability and validity of a new psychometric instrument
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 22:47 by John Robert Burns
Recent research has demonstrated that as many as half of the young people with mental health difficulties are not being identified nor are they receiving any professional intervention. This is particularly concerning given that many evidenced-based prevention and early intervention programs exist for a wide range of mental health problems. One proposed solution to address this problem is mental health screening in schools. Schools are an ideal context within which to administer such screening, given that most students attend each day. Unfortunately, very few schools implement screening programs. The social validity and acceptability of currently available screening instruments is one hypothesised reason for this reluctance. This thesis presents the development of a new suite of mental health screening tools designed for use in schools to address the hypothesised social validity difficulties. Unlike most conventional mental health screening tools, the RADAR screening instruments do not ask about the presence or severity of symptoms of mental health disorders. Instead, they are based on risk and protective factors known to be associated with the development of mental health difficulties. As such, the RADAR instruments are particularly useful in screening for selective prevention programs, which are aimed at young people considered to be at-risk but not yet symptomatic. This thesis contains four individual papers evaluating the reliability and validity of the screeners. Paper 1 reports on the development of a Youth Version, Paper 2 reports on the development of a Child version and Paper 3 reports on the development of a Teacher version of the RADAR, while Paper 4 reports on a 12 month longitudinal follow-up of the initial Youth RADAR sample. The thesis concludes with some broader comments on a 'road map' for the implementation of mental health screening in Australian schools.