New Study Highlights Lack of Treatment for Youth with Mental Health Problems

The New England Journal of Medicine has released a study with results emphasizing the lack of treatment for seriously ill youth in the U.S. Titled “Trends in Mental Health Care Among Children and Adolescents,” the study used data on 53,622 youth between the ages of 6 and 17 years to analyze mental health services over time.

The main finding of the study revealed that while the number of young people with mental health problems decreased—and the rate of treatment increased—the most seriously ill still fail to get the help they need.

Mark Olfson, MD, MPH, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center says the study’s results could spark positive change: “The new findings might help efforts to increase mental health treatment of children and adolescents who are in the greatest need. Many children and adolescents in America are known by their parents to have serious mental health problems but nevertheless they do not receive treatment.”

Other key highlights from the results include:

  • The percentage of severely impaired young people who accessed mental health services grew from 26.2 percent during the period 1996-1998 to 43.9 percent in 2010-2012—indicating that more than half of youth with mental health issues do not get help.
  • The use of mental health treatment among youth with less severe or no impairment increased from 6.7 percent to 9.6 percent over the same period, which raises concerns about youth receiving unnecessary psychiatric medications.

Watch the video above for an overview of the study results and what they mean for children with mental health issues.

Learn more about the study on the New England Journal of Medicine website.

Updated: June 03 2015