King County students to be offered mental health screenings to address feelings of depression, suicide

REDMOND, Wash. -- Some middle school students in King County will soon be asked to undergo mental health screenings to address feelings of depression and suicide.

"On our last survey, 13% of our middle schoolers reported that they’d contemplated suicide," said Matt Gillingham, director of student services for Lake Washington School District.

"That’s just a staggering amount. So this allows us to intervene early so we’re able to connect with those students before they start making plans or even attempting to commit suicide,"

Lake Washington will be one of the first in King County to take part in an online optional program that'll monitor the mental health of its middle school students.

In 2016, the healthy Youth Survey for Washington State showed that 28% of 8th graders reported feeling depressed and 17% percent had suicidal thoughts.

"Our counselors will be ready to respond as we screen students. We’ve also partnered with Youth Eastside Services and we’re going to have their staff onsite so that if a student does essentially flag for concerns around suicide, we have clinical professionals in our buildings right there to be able to provide support for the student and for their families," Gillingham said.

Bellevue and Northshore school districts will also offer mental health screenings this school year. Lake Washington will begin training its counselors next week and will conduct screenings this fall.

More than $12 million will be used from King County's "Best Starts for Kids" program to fund the mental health screenings.