WEDNESDAY, Nov. 23, 2022 (HealthDay News) — The kids aren’t doing well.
Up to 1 in 5 children in the United States suffers from a mental health problem, but only about half of those who need mental health care currently receive it. Additionally, suicide is the second leading cause of death among American children and adolescents, and youth suicide rates have increased over the past decade.
Now, about a year after the United States Surgeon General spoke of the urgent need to address the crisis, new research shows that the young people most likely to die by suicide live in areas with shortages of mental health professionals is pronounced. These professionals are also feeling the pressure as their workloads and waiting lists grow exponentially, according to the American Psychological Association’s 2022 COVID-19 Practitioner Impact Survey.
“This is a national emergency and quick action is needed to improve the mental health of young people,” said study author Dr. Jennifer Hoffmann, attending physician in the Division of Emergency Medicine. of the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago.
For the study, she and her colleagues analyzed more than 5,000 suicides among 5- to 19-year-olds that occurred from 2015 to 2016. The suicide rate increased as the availability of mental health professionals decreased, and that was worth also for youth suicide. by firearms. The greater the shortage of professionals, the higher the risk of suicide in this field, the study showed.
Solving this crisis starts with calling on policymakers to increase federal funding to ensure all children have access to mental health services, Hoffmann said.
This includes improving access to telemedicine services, supporting effective models of school-based mental health care, and accelerating the integration of mental health care into pediatric primary care settings, a- she declared.
Some bills before the US Congress seek to expand access to care for children and teens with mental health issues, Hoffmann said.
The Strengthen Kids’ Mental Health Now Act aims to create new federal programs to train, develop and grow the pediatric mental health workforce and increase reimbursement for pediatric mental health services.
The Helping Kids Cope Act of 2021 and the Children’s Mental Health Infrastructure Act would invest in strengthening the pediatric mental health workforce and community services to support prevention, early identification and treatment, Hoffman said.
“More funds are needed to support existing programs … that support pediatric mental and behavioral health,” she said.
Additionally, policies that restrict young people’s access to firearms should be part of an overall suicide prevention strategy, Hoffmann said.
To help children in crisis who are waiting to see a mental health professional, start by asking their pediatrician and school if they can help, she suggested.
“For acute situations with a risk of harming others, your pediatrician may recommend urgent evaluation in an emergency department,” Hoffmann noted.
The new study was published on November 21 in JAMA Pediatrics.
Dr. Aaron Carroll and Denise Hayes of Indiana University wrote an op-ed that accompanied the findings.
They said it was time to rethink what mental health care looks like for children and adolescents. This could include more peer-focused and community-based programs, rather than school-based treatment.
“We need to engage young people where they are and in a way that attracts them, not pushes them away,” they wrote.
That’s not all that needs to be done to fix these problems, however. Children in areas where there is a shortage of mental health professionals were also less likely to be insured or adequately insured.
“Any broad approach must also recognize the need for better health insurance,” Carroll and Hayes wrote.
Dr. Jennifer Havens, chair of child and adolescent psychiatry at NYU Grossman School of Medicine in New York, reviewed the findings.
“It’s a wonderful demonstration of very careful research into what we already know on the ground: children do much worse in environments that don’t have good mental health services,” she said. , adding that there is a great need for more mental health. professionals, especially child psychiatrists.
“Children are thinking about suicide or trying to harm themselves and it’s really a public health emergency,” Havens said.
If you have children or teenagers talking about suicide, take it seriously, she urged.
“Don’t trivialize it or minimize it,” Havens said. You’ll likely get an accurate assessment if you take your child to a provider who specializes in children, she added.
Havens has spent the past 25 years trying to develop more appropriate psychiatric emergency services for children across the country.
“If you walk into an environment that’s not designed to meet the mental health needs of children, these … children often fall through the cracks,” she said.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry offers more on recognizing the warning signs of suicide in children and adolescents.
SOURCES: Jennifer Hoffmann, MD, attending physician, Department of Emergency Medicine, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago; Jennifer Havens, MD, professor and chair, child psychiatry, NYU Grossman School of Medicine, New York, and director, child and adolescent behavioral health, NYC Health and Hospitals, New York; JAMA PediatricsNovember 21, 2022