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Few Teens with Mental Disorders Get Proper Care

Most Teens with Mental Disorders Not Receiving Proper CareA large percentage of young people who suffer from severe mental disorders are not receiving adequate care, according to data from a survey of more than 10,000 teens (ages 13-18), funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Prior studies have shown that approximately 20 percent of teens are affected by a severe mental disorder.  For the current study, Kathleen Merikangas, Ph.D., of NIMH and a team analyzed data from the National Comorbidity Study-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A).

The researchers tracked how often these teens reported having ever received services to treat their specific mental disorder, as well as what type of help they received and how often they received it.

Specifically, only about 36 percent suffering with a lifetime mental disorder received help; only half of these teens who were significantly impaired by their mental disorder received professional mental health care. Furthermore, 68 percent of the teens who were able to receive professional care visited a provider fewer than six times during their lifetime.

Professional help was highest for teens with ADHD (60 percent), and behavior disorders such as conduct disorder or oppositional defiant disorder (45 percent). For those with mood disorders such as bipolar disorder or depression, 38 percent received services, and 18 percent of teens with an anxiety disorder received help. Fifteen percent of teens with a substance use disorder received care, and 13 percent with an eating disorder received services.

It was more common for girls to receive treatment for anxiety disorders and for boys to receive services for ADHD. Non-Hispanic whites were more likely to receive care for any mood or anxiety disorder compared to racial and ethnic minorities, who were less likely to receive mental health care overall than their white peers.

The results suggest that although new programs have been implemented to improve mental health services for teens, such as the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and the federal Children’s Mental Health Initiative, many young people still do not receive appropriate mental health care.

Furthermore, the results highlight the fact that even for the few teens who are able to get treatment, most will not receive sufficient medical follow-up. Also, the low numbers of ethnic minorities who receive mental health care, especially for mood and anxiety disorders, are still an issue.

Finally, efforts are needed to raise awareness of mood and anxiety disorders among ethnic minorities, improve access to mental health services, and enhance the diagnostic skills of medical personnel who may come into contact with youth with mental disorders.

Source:  NIMH

Few Teens with Mental Disorders Get Proper Care

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2018). Few Teens with Mental Disorders Get Proper Care. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 7 Jan 2011)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.