The HEADS-ED is a validated interview tool that makes it easy for physicians and other health and mental health caregivers to identify children/youth with mental health issues, take a psychosocial history as well as find local help and resources.

Seven variables are incorporated into the use of the HEADS-ED tool:

  1. Home
  2. Education & Employment
  3. Activities and peers
  4. Drugs and alcohol
  5. Suicidality
  6. Emotions, behaviours, thought disturbance
  7. Discharge or current resources

These psychosocial items are used to classify patients into:

  • (0) No action needed
  • (1) Needs action but not immediate
  • (2) Needs immediate action


A score of 0, 1, or 2 is assigned for each psychosocial variable and these scores are summed to obtain a total score. A higher overall score on this screening tool translates into an indication of a greater need of immediate action. In the Emergency Department, a total score of greater than or equal to 8 and/or a suicidality score of 2 has been found to help guide the assessment process by indicating greater need for a psychiatric consult and/or admission.

The HEADS-ED was created by Dr. Mario Cappelli and the HEADS-ED development team: Heather Bragg, Paula Cloutier, Guy Doucet, Elizabeth Glennie, Dr. Clare Gray, Dr. Mona Jabbour, Dr. John Lyons, and Dr. Roger Zemek.

Click here to download a pdf copy of the HEADS-ED