Half of children in the United States who suffer from some kind of mental disorder go untreated, according to a recently published study. The researchers analyzed data collected from the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health, a nationwide survey of the parents of young adolescents.
The findings showed that of the 46.6 million youth ages 6 to 18 whose parents filled out the survey, about 7.7 million teens suffered from at least one type of mental illness, such as anxiety, depression or inattention. . /hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A year before this study was conducted, only half of these children were receiving counseling or any form of treatment offered by a mental health provider.
The study also found that the percentage of young teens diagnosed with a mental health disorder who did not receive any treatment from a health care provider fluctuated widely between 72.2 percent in North Carolina and 29.5 percent in the District of Columbia. The findings appear in February 2019 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
What do child and adolescent psychiatrists say?
Co-author Mark Peterson, an associate professor at Michigan University (Medicine), said he was thinking in a comprehensive way about the ailments faced by children at a young age. But he was shocked to see such a high percentage of young teens in the US not receiving psychiatric treatment
However, child psychiatrists didn’t seem too surprised by the results. Dr. Barbara Robles-Ramamurthy, an adolescent and child psychiatrist at the Long School of Medicine at the University of Texas (UT) San Antonio Health Science Center, said this was unfortunately not news to her. In fact, she was well aware that the percentage of young teens with mental illness that went untreated in the US was quite high.
Dr. Jennifer Mautone, a consultant psychiatrist in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, further explained that families and children with mental illness face a number of challenges when it comes to accessing mental health treatment services , contributing to the high rates not receiving treatment.
Extreme shortage of mental health providers
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) revealed that the United States was experiencing an extreme shortage of practicing child and adolescent psychiatrists. According to the available data, there were less than 17 caregivers per 100,000 teens.
This indicates that many families had to wait a long time for treatment, worsening the primary mental health condition of the affected child. The available qualified caregivers also faced major challenges when interacting with other existing systems responsible for the care of these children. Some of these systems include health care, education, childcare, and the adolescent justice system. All of these systems were supposed to take care of the child, but none of them communicated with each other, resulting in half-hearted care.
A glimmer of hope
Many pediatric health systems have begun to integrate mental health services into their practice, to promote timely intervention of mental health services for children. Even the mental health providers, by integrating with the paediatricians, tap into the already prevalent patient trust factor and are able to reach families in a familiar environment. One such program was the Healthy Minds, Healthy Kids Initiative at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, led by Dr. Mautone.
In the past two years, this initiative has served more than 2,500 patients. Robles-Ramamurthy, considered this a positive breakthrough. Yet there is still much more to achieve, she feels. Many families still view the presence of mental illness in their family as a personal failure and are afraid to address it for fear of the associated stigma. The work on destigmatizing mental illness only really started a decade ago. Another hurdle faced by the parents is insurance coverage. Some teens are covered, while others are not adequately covered.
Treatment of teen psychiatry at ADEONA Healthcare
Mental illness, when left untreated in young adolescents, poses serious threats to society, including unemployment, poor performance in school and life in general, and high suicide rates. At ADEONA Healthcare in Rancho San Diego, adolescents ages 12 to 17 receive comprehensive behavioral treatment programs for mental disorders and related issues. The facility offers a combination of individual and group therapies that are critical to the successful treatment and recovery of mental disorders.