Most teen mental health problems go untreated

November 18, 2013

More than half of adolescents with psychiatric disorders receive no treatment of any sort, says a new study by E. Jane Costello, a Duke University professor of psychology and epidemiology and associate director of the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy. When treatment does occur, the providers are rarely mental health specialists, says the study, which was based on a survey of more than 10,000 American teenagers.

The country's system has come under scrutiny in recent years, following a string of mass shootings, such as the murders at Columbine High in Colorado, in which seems to have played a role. The new study underlines the need for better mental health services for adolescents, Costello said.

"It's still the case in this country that people don't take psychiatric conditions as seriously as they should," Costello said. "This, despite the fact that these conditions are linked to a whole host of other problems."

Costello noted that not all teens in the study fared the same. Treatment rates varied greatly for different mental disorders, for instance. Adolescents with ADHD, conduct disorder or oppositional defiant disorder received more than 70 percent of the time. By contrast, teens suffering from phobias or anxiety disorders were the least likely to be treated. Results also varied greatly by race, with black youths significantly less likely to be treated for than white youths.

The care that teenagers received also varied greatly. In many cases, care was provided by pediatricians, school counselors or probation officers rather than by people with specialized mental health training. There simply are not enough qualified child mental health professionals to go around, Costello said.

"We need to train more child psychiatrists in this country," Costello said. "And those individuals need to be used strategically, as consultants to the school counselors and others who do the lion's share of the work."

The study draws on data from the National Comorbidity Survey Adolescent Supplement, a nationally representative face-to-face survey of 10,148 adolescents between the ages of 13 and 17. It was published online Nov. 15 in Psychiatric Services.

Explore further: Schools may help close gap to mental health services for adolescents with mental disorders

More information: "Services for Adolescents With Psychiatric Disorders: 12-Month Data From the National Comorbidity Survey–Adolescent," E. Jane Costello, Jian-ping He, Nancy A. Sampson, Ronald C. Kessler and Kathleen Ries Merikangas. Psychiatric Services 2013. DOI: 10.1176/appi.ps.201100518

Related Stories

Food insecurity predicts mental health problems in adolescents

December 17, 2012

A study published in the December 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found that adolescents who experienced food insecurity in the past year have a higher prevalence of mental ...

Recommended for you

Talk to babies and let them babble back to bridge word gap

February 18, 2017

Even infants can have conversations with mom or dad. Their turn just tends to involve a smile or some gibberish instead of words. That's a key lesson from programs that are coaching parents to talk more with their babies—and ...

What the ability to 'get the gist' says about your brain

February 17, 2017

Many who have a chronic traumatic brain injury (TBI) report struggling to solve problems, understand complex information and maintain friendships, despite scoring normally on cognitive tests. New research from the Center ...

Emotions are cognitive, not innate, researchers conclude

February 15, 2017

Emotions are not innately programmed into our brains, but, in fact, are cognitive states resulting from the gathering of information, New York University Professor Joseph LeDoux and Richard Brown, a professor at the City ...

People are found to be inefficient when searching for things

February 15, 2017

(Medical Xpress)—A trio of researchers at the University of Aberdeen in the U.K. has found that when people scan areas looking for something in particular, they tend to do so in a very inefficient manner. In their paper ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.