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The Use of Mental Health Services by Children and Adolescents

Diane Park - Wednesday, June 17, 2015

If you think that more children and youth are being treated for mental health disorders than 15 years ago, you are correct. A study published in the May 2015 New England Journal of Medicine shows that between 1996-1998 and 2010-2012, the use of outpatient mental health services by youth aged 6-17 increased from 9.2% to 13.3%. At the same time, the use of psychotropic medications increased from 5.5% to 8.9%. The study concluded that youth with more severe mental health impairment had the greatest relative increase in the use of outpatient services, yet fewer than half of them accessed services in 2010-2012.

Numerous studies have shown that about one in five children and adolescents have a mental health disorder. It is heartening to see an increasing use of treatment. Yet it remains a concern that fewer than half of youth with more severe mental health impairment accessed outpatient services. We must continue to work to improve access, to educate, and to reduce stigma!

(Mark Olfson, M.D., M.P.H., Benjamin G. Druss, M.D., M.P.H., and Steven C. Marchus, Ph.D., New England Journal of Medicine 2015; 372:2029-2038, May 21, 2015)

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