HEADSS Assessment: How to Use HEADSS Assessment Tools

headss-assessment
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Adolescents feel reluctant to let adults know they need care. So, engaging them can be daunting for health professionals.

It becomes more overwhelming when health professionals do not know what to ask or even what to do with the information they get.

So, the HEADSS Assessment tool provides guidance on how a school nurse, for instance, can improve the identification of psychosocial issues in young people.

Interestingly, efforts to implement HEADSS have also been successfully tested. For example, the HeadssED developed by pediatric experts in 2013 shows promising results for use in decision-making for pediatric patients with mental health concerns (Source).

In addition, self-assessment with HEADSS Assessment tools before discussion with a health professional can be equally useful.

So you can implement this at home or even in the waiting area before discussions. But what does HEADSS really mean?

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What Does the Acronym HEADSS Mean?

HEADSS is a psychosocial screening tool designed for adolescents. It was introduced in a publication by Cohen and colleagues in 1988 (Source).

However, it was recently expanded to HEEADSSS to include questions about eating and safety. So, it is being adopted for use in community health, school, and wellbeing settings.

It goes a long way in identifying an adolescent’s needs and strengths.

HEADSS acronym represents the following:

HEADSS Assessment Full Meaning

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How Does the HEADSS Assessment Work?

It is not always easy for young persons to show or express concerns about psychosocial, behavioral, and lifestyle problems.

So, a nurse working in a health and wellbeing setting where HEADSS is adopted should be able to utilize it effectively with these adolescents.

This involves developing rapport with them and, at the same time, gathering information about their world.

Some of the information you’ll explore includes:

Home

Information here includes who they live with, what their relationship with people at home is like as well as their perception of their home and personal lives.

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Education and Employment

You can also gather information about their academic performance. By this, you take note of any changes in grades, for instance.

You’ll also take note of information like the adolescent’s relationship with teachers, employers, and even their future career plans.

Activities

What do they do for fun with friends? What do they do for fun with the family? Do they belong to clubs, love church activities, or engage in community projects? These are also some of the questions you’ll get information for.

Drugs

Drug use among adolescents can be one of their best-kept secrets. However, the use of HEADSS tools recommends gathering information relating to drug use.

Do their peers use drugs? Does anyone in the family use drugs? Have they used drugs, and in what quantity?

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Sexuality

Information you’re likely to gather under sexuality includes their sexual orientation. This also includes their level of sexual exposure, the number of partners, and their knowledge of STDs.

Suicidal Depression

These are different signs of depression and suicidal inclination. Some of these could be sleep disorders and an increase in fatigue.

You’ll also gather information about changes in eating behavior, feeling of boredom, and even past history of suicidal attempts.

Safety and Spirituality

Under safety and spirituality, you can explore their risky behaviors, protection measures they take, and even traumatic experiences they’ve had.

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What Information Are You Supposed to Have at the End of the HEADSS Assessment?

At the end of the Heads Assessment, you should have a profile of:

  • the adolescents’ psychosocial health 
  • the overall level of risk of the adolescent 
  • specific risk factors in their lives
  • their protective factors and strengths, as well as
  • areas for intervention

What Next After the HEADSS Assessment?

After the assessment, the nurse or health professional does not dismiss the young person. Rather he can do the following according to the Adolescent Health GP Resource Kit:

  • Compliment the adolescents’ strengths and areas in their life where they are doing well 
  • Identify and discuss any issues of concern 
  • Assist the young person in identifying risks associated with their behavior and identify strategies for reducing risks 
  • Also, identify areas for early intervention and follow-up 
  • Finally, provide health education about specific health issues or risk behaviors

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What are the Advantages of HEADSS Assessment?

  • HEADSS allows the young person to review his/her health and wellbeing with an interested and non-judgemental adult. 
  • It also encourages the young person to make contact again if desired. 
  • It also provides room for the Individual to cope and also benefit from more support, relevant services, and how to access them.

Tips for Using HEADSS Assessment

Some of the questions you’ll explore using HEADSS might be quite probing, so be sure to get the trust of the young person first.

On that note, the following tips might come in handy:

  • Be sure to greet the adolescent first
  • Introduce the assessment and explain what you are doing
  • Then reassure the young person of confidentiality
  • Also, when you tell them about confidentiality, be sure you clarify what you mean
  • Request permission to ask sensitive questions
  • You can also use a third-person approach
  • Don’t make presumable statements or questions; rather use linking statements

For instance:

  • Do you have a girlfriend/boyfriend?
  • Do you have someone special in your life?

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What is the HEADSS Assessment Age?

The HEADSS Assessment age is the adolescent age of 10 to 19 years and up to 24 in some cases. So Headss can start at about 10 years of age in female adolescents and 11 years in male adolescents.

HEADSS Assessment for Adults

HEADSS is predominantly for the adolescent and youth world. However, mental health transcends age. It is equally important for everyone.

It is being adopted for adolescents between the ages of 10 to 19 years and up to 24 in some cases.

Heads Assessment Checklist

The Heads Assessment is not a checklist but a guide according to the Western Australian Community Health Clinical Nursing Manual.

We’ll agree with that at a close look. This is because HEADSS is not a list of tasks to be completed. So, there is no one hat that fits all when it comes to the information you’ll explore.

It’s rather a fundamental guide that you can explore and expand, depending on the individual characteristics of the young person you’re dealing with.

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Download Sample HEADSS Assessment Question and Questionnaire Template

For more details, you can check out Sample HEADSS Assessment Questions Pdf pages 6 and 7 of this link: www.health.nsw.gov.au for Adolescent Health GP Resource Kit Practice Points section two – chapter two.

These include a sample HEADSS assessment questionnaire. You can also check out the HEADSS assessment app website.

FAQs

What is the Headss assessment?

HEADSS is a psychosocial screening tool designed for adolescents. It was introduced in a publication by Cohen and colleagues in 1988.

What is the purpose of Heeadsss assessment?

The purpose of HEADSS is to understand adolescent behavior and assess risk-taking behaviors to provide appropriate interventions.

What age do you start Heads assessment?

You can start HEADSS Assessment at about 10 years of age in female adolescents and 11 years in male adolescents.

What is rapid Headss?

Rapid HEADSS is a psychosocial interview tool for young people aged 10-24 years, with questions on home, education, employment, activities, substance use, and reproductive health.

How do I start my Headss assessment?

  • Be sure to greet the adolescent first
  • Introduce the assessment and explain what you are doing
  • Then reassure the young person of confidentiality
  • Also, when you tell them about confidentiality, be sure you clarify what you mean
  • Request permission to ask sensitive questions
  • You can also use a third-person approach
  • Don’t make presumable statements or questions rather use linking statements

What is the meaning of Headss?

Home, Education/employment, peer group Activities, Drugs, Sexuality, and Suicide/depression

Conclusions

HEADSS assessment has proven to increase the percentage of assessing young people’s psychosocial issues.

It consists of a line of explorable interview guides that you can use when working with adolescents. Generally, it has never been easy to get adolescents to talk about issues relating to their social, psychological, or health problem.

However, you can adopt the HEADSS tools for a more rewarding outcome.

Thanks for reading. If you like to share your opinion on HEADSS tools, please hit the comment section right away!

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