Depression, anxiety, and stress are common mental health problems among adolescents. Cross-sectional and longitudinal studies have found that students who suffer from mental health problems (e.g., ADHD, anxiety, or depression) tend to manifest school and social problems. It is urgent to identify and intervene early to help children with mental health problems to improve their life outcomes. Unfortunately, research has shown that a significant proportion of children who suffer from behavioral or emotional problems remain unidentified because their symptoms are too mild to be noticed through casual observation by caregivers and teachers. As a result, their symptoms continue to develop gradually and eventually become mental illnesses. When mild to moderate symptoms become a noticeable mental illness, treatment becomes long-term, more invasive, and expensive. Early detection of children who are at risk of behavioral or emotional problems is possible through universal mental health screening in the school setting. The present study focused on the Behavioral and Emotional Screening System (BESS; Kamphaus & Reynolds, 2007) to identify students who were at mild risk of mental health problems and to examine their academic trajectories over four years. The findings suggest that students at mild risk of behavioral and emotional problems showed similar academic performance as other students. As a result, students with mild to moderate symptoms can be easily overlooked if academic performance were relied on as an indicator of mental health risk. The current results lend support for conducting universal behavioral and emotional risk screening at schools. A brief screener, applied universally, appears to be an effective solution for identifying students at mild risk of behavioral and emotional problems and acting early to prevent these problems from worsening.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
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