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The Value in Mental Health Screening for Individuals With Spinal Cord Injury: What Patients Tell Us

By: Colleen McMillan PhDa Joseph Lee MD, CCFP, FCFP, MCl ScbLoretta M.Hillier MAc James Milligan BSc PT, MD, CCFPb Linda Lee MD, MClSc(FM), CCFP(COE), FCFPbCraig Bauman DCb Michelle Ferguson MScOTb Karen Slonim PhDb Kay Weber MAb



“To gather consumer perspectives of a mental health screening protocol and to identify the incidence of previously unrecognized mental health concerns (case finding).”


“Pilot study using mixed methods: quantitative (survey) and qualitative (interviews).”


“Primary care health team in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.”


“Patients (N=15) with spinal cord injury living in the community. Participants ranged in age from 21 to 81 years of age (mean=46); 12 were men, 8 had tetraplegia and 5 paraplegia. The number of years since injury ranged from 1 to 32 (mean=13).”


“Implementation of a mental health screening protocol consisting of standardized screening tools for depression, anxiety, substance abuse, social isolation, somatoform disorder, functional status, chronic pain, and cognitive impairment.”


“Screening identified 11 of 15 individuals with a chronic pain condition; 1 individual screened positive for depression, 1 for anxiety, 3 for potential substance abuse, and 1 for social isolation. Most of the participants (12/13) rated the screening protocol as very acceptable. All but 1 individual intended to follow resulting treatment recommendations. Interview analyses generated themes related to disclosure of experiences that were incomplete that concealed important information and perceptions that the screening protocol failed to assess resiliency. Although perceived as valuable, participants felt screening tools alone did not capture information important to them.”


“Screening tools alone may not identify mental health issues. Interviews in addition to screening tools are needed to accurately identify mental health issues in this population. Identification of mental health issues is critical to ensuring access to effective interventions and improving health outcomes and quality of life for individuals with SCI.”

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