_Getting Teens to Talk

One Drexel professor developed an online questionnaire to get teens to open up with their doctors about risk factors for suicide.

_Guy Diamond

Diamond is an associate professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions. He directs the doctoral program in Couple and Family Therapy as well as his own Center for Family Intervention Science.

Getting teenagers to open up about personal problems can be difficult, but new requirements from the American Academy of Pediatrics ask health care providers to screen adolescents for depression and suicide risk annually.

One Drexel professor has developed a tool that can help providers obtain relevant information from their patients — minus long silences and monosyllabic replies.

Guy Diamond’s Behavioral Health Works tool consists of an online health screening questionnaire that measures multiple factors that can affect a teen’s risk: depression, suicidality, trauma, substance use, sexuality, gun access, bullying, violence exposure and other risk behaviors.

Teens Risk Assessment Graphic


In just a few quick steps, a patient can complete a depression screening, discuss results with a health care provider, and have the report added to the patient’s file through the use of the Behavioral Health Works system and tools.

It’s important to ask about these multiple factors because, as Diamond says, with teens’ suicide risk “things are more complicated than just depression. Adolescents can be experiencing problems that put them at risk, even if they are not depressed.”

During a medical visit, patients take about seven minutes to complete the questionnaire. Results are automatically scored and condensed into a report for the doctor. The private setting and method of answering questions in the survey can help ease the anxiety teens might have about answering deeply personal questions and prepare them to discuss their feelings.

The tool is now used in 40 sites in Pennsylvania and screens over 1,000 patients each month.