Many Kids With Mental Health Issues Go Untreated

By Sarah Collins
HealthDay reporter

MONDAY, March 29, 2021 (HealthDay News) – More than half of high-risk children in the United States are not receiving behavioral health services essential to their mental, emotional and physical well-being, new research warns.

“It’s a pretty straightforward and widely accepted finding that there are a lot of children at risk, when you look at it in terms of adversities or symptoms, who are not receiving mental health services, counseling services. behavioral health, ”said study co-author David Finkelhor. He directs the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.

The lack of treatment for children with depression, anxiety and / or multiple negative childhood experiences is more severe in children whose parents have only a high school diploma and children from color, with black children being the least likely to have access to it. behavioral health services.

“The implication is that we really should be doing a lot more to try to facilitate services for this segment of the population,” said Finkelhor.

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A remarkable outlier in the study: High-risk children with non-traditional family structures were much more likely than their counterparts to have received mental health services.

For the study, researchers looked at the results of three national surveys of children’s exposure to violence, which included nearly 12,000 children aged 10 to 17 and caregivers of children aged 2 to 9. the at-risk young people interviewed remained without professional help.

The report was published online recently in JAMA network open.

This lack of services can impact children in the long run, said Dr Tarik Hadzic, a child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist in Los Angeles, who was not involved in the study.

“They are little children. Half of this group [aged] 2 to 9 years old were between 2 and 5 years old, “Hadzic said.” These are crucial times in a child’s brain development, where early intervention can have huge positive effects on the appearance of both. [mental health issues and adverse childhood experiences]. You can affect mental and physical conditions later, as children with untreated mental health issues will continue to have more problems into adulthood. “

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In addition, he noted, nearly two-thirds of young people aged 10 to 17 with mental health issues and adverse childhood experiences have not received care, which can lead to harm. other negative results.

“It’s really disturbing too,” Hadzic said. “This includes adolescence, especially later adolescence, when they are more likely to be criminally responsible for offenses, and more likely to engage in suicidal behavior, for example, leading to death. is completely preventable. They are not identified. I do not. I do not see them. “

Missed diagnoses of conditions in children of color is an issue, which was evident in another study recently published in JAMA network open. It has shown disparities in the identification and treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Asian, Black and Hispanic children. Lack of resources in low-income communities, previous negative experiences with health professionals, and historical harms against people of color are also factors.

To make matters worse, the surveys reviewed for the latest research were completed in 2008, 2011 and 2014. According to several parameters, the period of the COVID-19 pandemic has been extremely difficult for children, and children at high risk are likely to be most affected by the crisis. trauma.

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“In my practice, I see a lot more children and adolescents with worsening depression,” Hadzic said. “Isolation is clearly a risk factor for depression. And now, you know, we have this isolation rightfully instituted due to the deadly pandemic, but a lot of kids are just being cut off. And they don’t find digital interactions up close. also meaningful with their friends. So I think the pandemic is definitely making universal testing much more difficult. [adverse childhood] more difficult events. “

If professionals become more agile in identifying children at risk, treatment can significantly help affected children. Finkelhor and his colleagues offered suggestions on how to expand the necessary clinical contacts.

“We need to train more people to provide these kinds of services,” said Finkelhor. “We need to provide them in more convenient places, like schools, and in conjunction with doctor’s offices. We need to wrap them up to make them a little less stigmatizing. We need to announce some of the new procedures and techniques that we have. We have to make sure that the new services, and in particular the evidence-based services, that are the most effective are the ones that are provided, and that everyone is trained in them. “

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Finkelhor also advocated the use of the arts and exercise to help children cope with depression, anxiety, and trauma.

More information

Visit the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to learn more about mental health in children.

SOURCES: David Finkelhor, PhD, professor, sociology and director, Crimes Against Children Research Center, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH; Tarik Hadzic, MD, PhD, child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist, Los Angeles; JAMA network open, March 15, 2021, online

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