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50 percent of US children with mental illness remain untreated

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Half of the children in the US who have mental health problems go untreated, a recent study found. The researchers analyzed data from the 2016 National Child Health Survey, a nationwide survey conducted on young adolescent parents.

The results showed that of the 46.6 million adolescents in the 6 to 18 age group whose parents participated in the survey, around 7.7 million adolescents suffered from at least one type of mental health problem such as anxiety, depression or attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). One year prior to this survey, only half of these children received advice or treatment from a mental health provider.

The survey also found that the percentage of young teenagers diagnosed with a mental disorder and receiving no treatment from a provider varied widely between 72.2 percent in North Carolina and 29.5 percent in the District of Columbia. The results were published in the JAMA Pediatrics magazine in February 2019.

What do child and adolescent psychiatrists say?

Co-author Mark Peterson, an associate professor at Michigan University (Medicine), said he had given careful consideration to the conditions that young children suffer from. But he was shocked to see that such a high percentage of young teenagers in the United States received no mental treatment.

Child psychiatrists, however, did not seem to be too surprised by the results. Dr. Barbara Robles-Ramamurthy, a adolescent and child psychiatrist at the Long School of Medicine of the Health Science Center at the University of Texas (UT) in San Antonio, said that unfortunately this is not news for her. In fact, she was very familiar with the fact that the percentage of young teenagers with mental illness who remained untreated in the United States was quite high.

Dr. Jennifer Mautone, a counseling psychiatrist at the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, went on to explain that families and children with mental illness face a number of challenges when it comes to accessing mental health care services, what contributes to the high rates of not receiving treatment.

Extreme lack of mental health providers

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) has found that the United States faces an extreme shortage of practicing psychiatrists for children and adolescents. According to the available data, there were fewer than 17 healthcare providers per 100,000 adolescents.

This indicates that many families had to wait long for treatment, which worsened the child’s primary mental health. The available qualified providers were also faced with great challenges when interacting with other existing systems that are responsible for caring for these children. Some of these systems included health care, education, childcare and the juvenile justice system. All of these systems should take care of the child, but none of them interacted, resulting in half-hearted care.

A ray of hope

Many pediatric health systems have started to integrate psychosocial services into their practice to promote timely child psychosocial intervention. Even mental health providers, by integrating into pediatricians, use the patient’s already prevailing trust factor and can reach families in a familiar environment. One such program was the “Healthy Minds, Healthy Children” initiative at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, led by Dr. Mautone.

In the past two years, this initiative has cared for more than 2,500 patients. Robles-Ramamurthy saw this as a positive breakthrough. However, she believes that much more must be achieved. Many families still consider the presence of a mental illness in their family to be a personal failure and are afraid to address them because they are afraid of the stigma associated with it. The work to destigmatize mental illness only started a decade ago. Insurance protection is another hurdle for parents. Some of the adolescents are covered, while others are not sufficiently covered.

Teen mental health care at ADEONA Healthcare

Mental illness, if left untreated in young adolescents, poses a serious threat to the community, including unemployment, poor performance in school and life in general, and high suicide rates. At ADEONA Healthcare in Rancho San Diego, adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 receive comprehensive behavioral treatment programs for mental disorders and related problems. The facility offers a combination of individual and group therapies that are critical to the successful treatment and healing of mental disorders.

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