What Is A Mental Health Evaluation and How Can It Help?

Young man faces away on a cool day, looking into the distance.When the behavior of a teenager begins to worry a parent, the question of “What is a mental health evaluation, and how can it help?” is essential to ask. Given the negative stigma about mental health in the United States, mental health is often misunderstood and a clearer picture is needed. By starting with an open mind, the value of a mental health assessment quickly becomes evident to parents. If you are concerned about the well-being of a teenager, don’t be afraid to start a conversation about mental health and potential psychological evaluation.

A mental health evaluation has many different names. A mental health evaluation could also be described as a psychiatric evaluation, a psych evaluation, a psychological evaluation test, a mental health assessment, or a therapeutic assessment. The terminology is not as important as taking action.

The essential point of a mental health evaluation is to pinpoint the specific kind of help a person needs.

What is a Mental Health Evaluation?

When a young person is experiencing behavioral, social, or even academic difficulties, there could be several underlying reasons causing the problems. Whether it’s potentially caused by an emotional issue, such as anxiety or depression, a learning disorder, anger issues, or attention deficit disorder, the cause behind the trouble is essential to examine.

Thus, a mental health assessment is conducted in one of the forms above, such as a psychological evaluation, to shed light on the issue. Specific types of therapeutic approaches and testing can help a mental health professional like a therapist or a psychiatrist rule out the majority of issues. Through a process of elimination, a mental health evaluation helps to pinpoint the likely cause of a young person’s struggles.

A mental health evaluation is designed to do the following:

  1. Provide a professional assessment upon referral or request
  2. Pinpoint and diagnose mental health conditions
  3. Differentiate between mental health issues and physical problems

What to do Before a Psychological Evaluation?

Before taking a teenager to a psychological evaluation, specify the following if possible. It’s hard to get teenagers to speak about such things, but it might help the process:

  1. What are the symptoms that led to this decision?
  2. Did a specific event like a loved one’s death bring on the symptoms?
  3. What are the thoughts and feelings being experienced?
  4. How long have the symptoms been happening?

By knowing this information, getting meaningful insights from a mental health evaluation can be that much easier.

Two young women sit on top of the cab of a pickup truck, looking off into the distant cloudy mountains. The girl on the left holds a to-go coffee cup, and the other braces her knee against herself.

Psychiatric Evaluation and Stigma

To access help and stay positive, please talk about the stigma that you or your teenager might be feeling about a mental health or psychiatric evaluation. Mental health stigma is divided into two distinct types of stigma. Social stigma means the prejudicial attitudes and discriminating behaviors directed towards individuals with mental health problems. According to Dr. Patrick Corrigan (2004), social stigma “diminishes self-esteem and robs people of social opportunities.”

In contrast, perceived stigma is the internalizing of such discrimination and perceived stigma by the struggling teenager themselves or by the parents of that teenager. It is purely perceived and may not be external. Thus, both teenagers and parents often experience “avoidance syndrome,” making poor choices or  refusing to have a mental health evaluation when it is sorely needed. They describe the stigma as a feeling of shame and the fear of being judged by other people. Such fears are natural, yet need to be explored and eventually overcome.

This is critical because when such shame and fear keeps the teenager from getting help, it can lead to disastrous consequences. When a teenager is experiencing a potential mental health challenge, a psychological evaluation is not a choice. Indeed, it is a necessity that ultimately saves lives.

As expressed by The National Alliance on Mental Health, “There’s a virus spreading across America. It harms the 1 in 5 Americans affected by mental health conditions. It shames them into silence. It prevents them from seeking help. And in some cases, it takes lives. What virus are we talking about? It’s stigma. Stigma against people with mental health conditions. But there’s good news. Stigma is 100% curable. Compassion, empathy and understanding are the antidote. Your voice can spread the cure.”

When it comes to a mental health evaluation, the future happiness and prosperity of a teenager is your final concern. Any form of avoidance is a threat to this future. By overcoming stigma and getting a psychiatric evaluation, you take a positive step forward and help your troubled teenager.

What to Expect from a Mental Health Evaluation?

A mental health assessment or a psychological evaluation test is composed of several distinct parts. Since psychological assessment does not take place in a vacuum, it often starts with a physical examination. Not every assessment includes all of the following aspects, but any psychological assessment will consist of some of the following:

  1. Physical Exam — If a doctor or psychiatrist does the psychological assessment, they will want to rule out other potential physical causes behind the symptomology of the mental illness. A physical exam can uncover a hyperactive thyroid or a neurological issue. Such physical issues can cause symptomology that appears like a mental illness.
  2. Lab Tests — A doctor or psychiatrist may request bloodwork, a urine test, a brain scan, or other tests to rule out some of these physical conditions.
  3. Mental Health History — A teenager’s personal and family mental health history will need to be detailed, including any past psychiatric treatments.
  4. Personal History — A teenager will talk to a mental health professional about what is currently going on. Questions also will be asked about what has happened in the past. The point is to uncover points of stress and any major childhood traumas.
  5. Mental and Emotional Evaluation — Questions about thoughts and feelings affecting the behavior of a teenager. A more in-depth look into the details behind the symptomology while the mental health professional also observes current appearance and behavior. Further questions might be asked about mental health difficulties like depression, anxiety, compulsivity, and paranoid thinking.
  6. Cognitive Evaluation — A mental health professional might gauge a teenager’s ability to recall information and apply mental reasoning. Such an evaluation includes simple tests that focus on memory, attention, and pattern recognition.

Upon finishing, a mental health evaluation and psychological assessment report will not only be focused on weaknesses and mental health issues found in the testing process. A teenager’s strengths and positive abilities are also highlighted, which will be the foundation for their future mental wellness.

What is a Mental Health Evaluation: the Help Most Likely Needed

If you are researching what a mental health evaluation is for your teenager, then help most likely is needed. Nobody wants to see a young person in pain. A psychological assessment helps to pinpoint the problem and the causes behind a teenager’s suffering, and provides a roadmap to wellness.

The key is to overcome social stigma and take the next step. Capable mental health professionals value the courage of parents that take this step. The vast majority will take great care in writing up a psychological assessment report of a teenager, communicating their conclusions in clear and thoughtful language.

It’s important to note that often a primary mental health evaluation is only the first step. Indeed, certain mental health problems are hard to diagnose. A parent may not get a definitive diagnosis or explanation for a teenager’s symptoms straightaway. Taking this first step, however, is the most likely way to start walking with a teenager on Previous a path of true recovery.


Photo courtesy of Gratisography via Pexels.