BACKGROUND: We wanted to identify psychiatric disorders among 14 to 16-year-olds and to assess the utility of the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) and Prime Mental Disorders (Prime MD) compared to assessments done by a general practitioner. The aim was to assess new methods in the school health services' approach to mental health problems. MATERIAL AND METHODS: 108 (95.6%) of a primary population of 113 adolescents in a coast community in Norway participated in 2000 and 2001. RESULTS: Out of 108 students, six girls and two boys had psychiatric disorders or abused alcohol; two of them were referred to a psychiatric out-patient clinic after the screening test. INTERPRETATION: The results obtained reflect that mental health problems as well as somatic complaints are quite frequent among adolescents. The HADS and Prime MD discriminate fairly well between adolescents with depressive or anxiety disorders and those without.