National Recovery Month: Stats & Facts

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Mental health assessments are examinations used to ascertain whether a person is healthy psychologically and socially and is generally developing and/or living well. They are often used to screen for mental health disorders like depression or neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's.

What Are Five Main Components of Mental Health Assessments?

Mental health assessments are essential at every stage in life as they reveal how well individuals handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Regular assessments are especially important as we age as aging is associated with an increased likelihood of developing neurodegenerative and cerebrovascular diseases. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), a cognitive impairment or dementia diagnosis requires a deficit of at least two cognitive or behavioral functions. These functions evaluate the ability to learn and remember information and to reason and complete chores. Other functions assessed include visuospatial proficiency, speech, reading, writing, behavior, and personality.   

It’s essential to understand the main components of mental health assessments to select the ideal evidence-based tools for your organization and its purpose(s) in leveraging these helpful solutions.

What Is Included in a Mental Health Assessment

A common type of mental health assessment is a "mental status evaluation" (MSE). An MSE is a structured assessment of the patient's behavioral and cognitive functioning and is necessary to helping ensure a more accurate psychiatric evaluation. When performed effectively, an MSE illuminates signs and symptoms of a mental illness or its risk factors. The MSE is also used to identify a working diagnosis and establish areas of potentially worthwhile intervention.

What are five of the main components of a mental health assessment? Here are those frequently cited as some of the most important for an effective MSE.

1. General appearance and behavior

The appearance of a patient may give clues about his or her mental state. Key factors such as chronological age and whether patients look their age, what their dressing style says, and whether they are well-groomed or can maintain eye contact are informative. In addition, assessment of appearance and behavioral can help identify problems with alcohol and substance use.

2. Mood and affect

Mood and affect are both related to emotion. The subjective and objective aspects of mood must be assessed; affects are the expressions reflected in movements or changes in voice tone, posture, or stance. It’s important that both affect and mood are aligned.

3. Thought content

A health provider must ask direct questions to better determine and assess a patient's train of thought. Are their thoughts logical or consistent? Are they blocking any thoughts? Through the process of assessing thought content, providers can often detect negative feelings, such as hopelessness. 

4. Cognitive functioning

Cognitive functioning relates to intellectual abilities. This mental health assessment checks the capacity to read, write, and immediately remember significant events in the recent past. Furthermore, a provider may use this assessment to determine if a patient can recognize familiar people and places. Cognitive functioning also includes the ability to focus or perform simple calculations. 

5. Judgment and insight

While judgment is determined by how well a patient solves problems and makes informed choices, insight is evaluated by gathering as much information as possible from the patient's perspective. Topics can include the reasoning for a visit to a behavioral health specialist and an understanding of the challenges that have led to the visit.

How the Mental Status Examination Is Used

Now that you’ve learned about some of the key components of a mental health assessment, let’s review how the MSE is employed. A healthcare provider, such as a behavioral health specialist or pediatric care provider, uses this tool by asking direct questions and observing objectively. Specific tests may be performed depending on patient needs or what the clinician wants to know about a patient. 

The examination typically begins with a general observation of consciousness, appearance, activity, and emotional state. This is combined with a brief memory test to rule out the presence of a pathogen. A more thorough investigation will be made by the health provider using a cognitive evaluation in which neurological and psychological functions are assessed. 

The cognitive assessment evaluates: 

  • Attention
  • Language 
  • Memory
  • Praxis (i.e., the process by which a skill is enacted or the performance of an action)
  • Prosody (i.e., rhythm, stress, and intonation of speech)
  • Thought content
  • Visuospatial proficiency (i.e., ability to perceive and manipulate objects and shapes in space)
  • Executive function
  • Orientation
  • Thought process
  • Gnosia (i.e., ability to recognize and identify)

The examination may also include a brief standardized tool, such as the mini-mental state examination (MMSE).

What Is the Difference Between MSE and MMSE?

An MSE is used initially. Other standardized mental health assessment tools may be used if needs warrant a more comprehensive examination, such as the MMSE.

Whereas the MSE is a brief neuropsychological screening test, the mini-mental state examination is used for more detailed testing in the cognitive section of MSE. This detailed assessment helps to remove ambiguity in the initial screening.

Strengthen Your Mental Health Assessments With nView

If you're looking for a new mental health assessment tool or one that can better support your organization and patients than a current solution, ensure it incorporates all MSE components. The mental health assessment tool you select and rely upon must be easy to administer, readily accessible, and provide real-time data you can quantify for analysis. Once you make an accurate diagnosis, then treatment and other interventions can improve as you more specifically address a patient's mental health challenges.

Is your organization looking for a solution that will strengthen how those with mental illness are identified, diagnosed, monitored and receive the mental health care and support they need? Contact nView today to learn about our evidence-based behavioral health solution. Our team will walk you through this solution, which includes mental health questionnaires, screening solutions, structured diagnostic interviews, severity measurement scales, and post-diagnosis monitors, and explain how we're delivering the data that's helping providers make better decisions so patients can lead healthier lives.

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