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Online Mental Health Screenings: A Potential First Step


Several organizations provide brief online screenings for depression, anxiety, PTSD and other mental health conditions. For example, screenings are offered by Screening for Mental Health, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, Anxiety and Depression Association of American and Mental Health America. More than one million people took screenings through the Mental Health America site alone in 2016.

These screenings are generally brief, free, anonymous and confidential (see individual websites for specifics). A screening can be an important first step in getting needed care for mental health concerns and can be an easy way for you or someone you care about to get a better understanding of concerning experiences or feelings.


The screenings are not a substitute for professional assessment and care. If you have further questions or serious concerns, contact your health care provider or a mental health professional. Some have raised concerns about online screenings, such as confusion between short-term distress and chronic conditions, and the potential misuse of data. However, a recent study of adolescent online self-screening published in the journal “Academic Pediatrics” concluded that: “The availability of brief, free Internet-based psychosocial screens might offer a viable way to identify at-risk youth and provide them with pathways to additional support and/or treatment.”

Mental Health America recently published an analysis of the information from the screenings from 2014 to 2016. About half the people using the online screening, took a screening for depression.

Mental Health American found that among people completing the depression screen, 60 percent screened with moderately severe or severe depression and of those, 70 percent had never been diagnosed by a health care provider. Rates of severe depression were highest among those earning the least. Across all races, screeners earning less than $20,000 were more likely to screen for severe depression than people with higher earnings.

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Just over 30 percent of screeners reported significant thoughts of suicide or self-harm and the number was higher among screeners age 11 to 17. Almost half of youth reported thoughts of suicide or self-harm. Rates of moderate and severe depression were also higher among youth than adults.

When asked about their next steps after taking the screening, more than one-quarter (27 percent) said they would discuss it with a family member, friend or a professional and 18 percent said they would find additional information online. About 17 percent said they would seek treatment, 5 percent planned to monitor their health by taking additional screenings and about a third said they would take no action.

The Mental Health America screening data was presented as part of its annual State of Mental Health in America report.


  • Mental Health America. The State of Mental Health in America 2018.
  • Murphy, JM, et al. Adolescent self-Screening for Mental Health Problems; Demonstration of an Internet-Based Approach. Acad Pediatr. 2017. Epub ahead of print.


AnxietyDissociative DisordersConduct DisordersADHDBipolar DisordersSleep DisordersDepressionAutismHoarding DisorderOCDPersonality DisordersEating DisordersGambling DisorderSomatic Symptom DisorderSchizophreniaPostpartum depressionAddictionPTSD


Comments (1)

  • Erik B

    I think the use of online mental health screenings will be a valuable tool in the fight against mental illness. The way the world is moving now at such a fast pace with the internet, social media, unstable political climate, widespread drug abuse, global warming, and more, expose people to risks of developing mental illness such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress etc. Studies show that between 25-50% of adult mental illness could be prevented by early intervention (Thomas, et. Al 2016). There may be a large population of people with mental illness that for various reasons don’t have access to the resources necessary to screen for mental illness. The hope would be with the use of online mental health screenings, could help expose a wider range of people to the idea that they may have some mental health issues. With the widespread use of computers, cell phones, and access to the internet among adolescents at a rate of almost 95% in the U.S. (Anderson, Jiang, 2018) , this could lead to an increase in interventions for early detection. I think there is still a long way to go in relation to the effectiveness of online mental health screenings. I agree that this is just the first step in combating mental illness, but with further studies and research by Psychiatrists and other mental health experts, they could help develop appropriate methods, questionnaires, and screening tools to provide the most safe and effective online health screening system. Nowadays the internet has made everything more convenient and is used for almost everything including, shopping, ordering food, getting a ride and more. It seems to be the logical step to have forms of healthcare easily accessed via the internet as well. References: Thomas, S., Jenkins, R., Burch, T., Calamos Nasir, L., Fisher, B., Giotaki, G., … Wright, F. (2016). Promoting Mental Health and Preventing Mental Illness in General Practice. London Journal of Primary Care, 8(1), 3–9. Anderson, M., Jiang,J. (May, 2018). Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018. PEW Research Center.Org Retrieved from:

    • 20 Nov 2018 - 8:54 PM