091109_osymMore adolescents and children are receiving mental health care than ever before; yet more than half of those who need it most do not get it, according to a study sponsored by the New York State Psychiatric Institute, the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Columbia University Medical Center, and other institutions. The study also found, among other things, that the percentage of young people with “serious impairments” in behavioral health dropped from 13% to 11% between 1996 and 2012, indicating that treatment is working.

The lead investigators were Mark Olfson, M.D., Benjamin G. Druss, M.D., and Stephen C. Marcus, Ph.D., whose article, “Trends in Mental Health Care among Children and Adolescents”, was published in the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The study, with input from more than 50,000 young people, was undertaken because “increasing mental health treatment of young people and broadening conceptualization of psychopathology have triggered concerns about a disproportionate increase in the treatment of youth with low levels of mental health impairment.”

Among the findings: young people ages 6-17 are receiving more outpatient mental health care than in the past. In the period 1996-8 it was found that 9.2% of all of them received services, while by 2010-12 the rate had increased to 13.3%. The largest proportionate increase during that period was for services to young people with severe impairment. The largest absolute increase was in services to those with low impairment or no impairment (from 2.74 million to 4.19 million). Significant overall increases occurred in the use of psychotherapy (from 4.2% to 6.0%) and psychotropic medications (from 5.5% to 8.9%). Among those with severe problems, the use of medication increased from 18% to 32%, while it increased from 4% to 6% for those with mild/no problems.

These findings tend to indicate that America’s young people are feeling and functioning better now than they were 25 years ago. This comports with the findings of other studies that young people are not binge-drinking and dropping out of school as much as in the past.

There is little evidence of “a disproportionate increase in the treatment of youth with low levels of mental health impairment.” The good news is that more young people are receiving behavioral health care and that it is proving beneficial; however, it remains very troubling that millions who need help do not receive it, including 56% of those with the most severe problems.

More adolescents and children are receiving mental health care than ever before; yet more than half of those who need it most do not get it, according to a study sponsored by the New York State Psychiatric Institute, the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Columbia University Medical Center, and other institutions. The study also found, among other things, that the percentage of young people with “serious impairments” in behavioral health dropped from 13% to 11% between 1996 and 2012, indicating that treatment is working.

The lead investigators were Mark Olfson, M.D., Benjamin G. Druss, M.D., and Stephen C. Marcus, Ph.D., whose article, “Trends in Mental Health Care among Children and Adolescents”, was published in the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The study, with input from more than 50,000 young people, was undertaken because “increasing mental health treatment of young people and broadening conceptualization of psychopathology have triggered concerns about a disproportionate increase in the treatment of youth with low levels of mental health impairment.”

Among the findings: young people ages 6-17 are receiving more outpatient mental health care than in the past. In the period 1996-8 it was found that 9.2% of all of them received services, while by 2010-12 the rate had increased to 13.3%. The largest proportionate increase during that period was for services to young people with severe impairment. The largest absolute increase was in services to those with low impairment or no impairment (from 2.74 million to 4.19 million). Significant overall increases occurred in the use of psychotherapy (from 4.2% to 6.0%) and psychotropic medications (from 5.5% to 8.9%). Among those with severe problems, the use of medication increased from 18% to 32%, while it increased from 4% to 6% for those with mild/no problems.

These findings tend to indicate that America’s young people are feeling and functioning better now than they were 25 years ago. This comports with the findings of other studies that young people are not binge-drinking and dropping out of school as much as in the past.

There is little evidence of “a disproportionate increase in the treatment of youth with low levels of mental health impairment.” The good news is that more young people are receiving behavioral health care and that it is proving beneficial; however, it remains very troubling that millions who need help do not receive it, including 56% of those with the most severe problems.

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