There is good news, mixed news, and some bad news in a report on trends in mental health care in children and teens. Researchers found that the number of kids and teens with severe mental health issues has gone down and more young people are getting treatment that includes therapy and not just pills. However, more than half of severely troubled kids are not getting any help.
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, used data from household surveys done by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in 1996 to1998, 2003 to 2005, and 2010 to 2012. Parents were asked to rate their children on how often the children were sad, whether they got along with other children, and whether they often felt nervous or afraid. Kids with a score over 16 were considered to have significant mental health issues.
Between 1996 and 2012, the percentage of kids and teens who were found to have severe issues dropped from 12.8% to 10.7%. The reason for the drop is not known and it conflicts with some other studies.
The drop in the number with severe issues may be due to more kids getting care at a younger age, preventing the issues from becoming severe. The use of mental health services rose from 9% to 13%. This rise was bigger for severely troubled kids, going from 26% to 44% in this group. Among kids with little or no impairment, the percentage getting treatment went from 7% to 10%.
However, the study also found that about 56% of kids with serious troubles are not getting any mental health care.
Use of medications for mental health issues in kids and teens went from 6% to 9%. More kids are getting therapy, and not just drugs, with a rise from 4% to 6%in the use of therapy treatments.