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Study Finds 1 in 7 US Kids Have a Mental Health Condition

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A study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics points to findings that 1 in 7 children and teens in the US have a mental health condition, and more than half of them, go without treatment. Data analyzed from the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health shows that of the 46.6 million children surveyed, 7.7 million had at least one mental health condition. This included depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, and a variety of other mental health conditions.

The number of children living with mental health conditions varied from state to state, with some states like Maine showing 27.2% of kids with mental health issues. Mark Peterson, an associate professor at the University of Michigan and lead author of the study, was shocked at the studies findings. However, child and adolescent psychiatrists and psychologists are unsurprised with the results.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Dr. Barbara Robles-Ramamurthy, child psychiatrist at the Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio told CNN “Unfortunately, this is not news for us.” She added, “we have known that the number of children who have mental illness and that go untreated is very high.”

Robles-Ramamurthy points to several causes for such a high number of untreated mental health issues in children. She says that within some communities, there is still a stigma that surrounds mental illness. Because of this, it is common for families to not feel comfortable accessing and utilizing mental health services.

This, compounded with the fact that insurance coverage for mental health services is limited, along with a shortage of providers, provides credence to this studies findings. It is estimated that there are fewer than 17 practicing child and adolescent psychiatrists for every 100,000 children. This leads to longer wait times, leading to a lack of support for thousands of children who desperately need treatment.

Going forward, pediatric health systems are hoping to better integrate mental health services for children into pediatricians offices. By doing so, it is hoped it will create a more welcoming atmosphere for families to pursue help for mental health conditions.

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