The American Academy of Pediatrics called for action for improved screening of mental health issues in the emergency department (ED). We developed the rapid screening tool home, education, activities/peers, drugs/alcohol, suicidality, emotions/behavior, discharge resources (HEADS-ED), which is a modification of “HEADS,” a mnemonic widely used to obtain a psychosocial history in adolescents. The reliability and validity of the tool and its potential for use as a screening measure are presented.
ED patients presenting with mental health concerns from March 1 to May 30, 2011 were included. Crisis intervention workers completed the HEADS-ED and the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths-Mental Health tool (CANS MH) and patients completed the Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI). Interrater reliability was assessed by using a second HEADS-ED rater for 20% of the sample.
A total of 313 patients were included, mean age was 14.3 (SD 2.63), and there were 182 females (58.1%). Interrater reliability was 0.785 (P < .001). Correlations were computed for each HEADS-ED category and items from the CANS MH and the CDI. Correlations ranged from r = 0.17, P < .05 to r = 0.89, P < .000. The HEADS-ED also predicted psychiatric consult and admission to inpatient psychiatry (sensitivity of 82% and a specificity of 87%; area under the receiver operator characteristic curve of 0.82, P < .01).
The results provide evidence to support the psychometric properties of the HEADS-ED. The study shows promising results for use in ED decision-making for pediatric patients with mental health concerns.