6 statistics that show which teens receive mental health services – and why


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6 statistics that show which teens receive mental health services – and why

Silhouette of a teenage boy with head hanging low.

As with most healthcare systems in the United States, access to quality mental health treatment is far from an equal opportunity process. Factors such as access to wealth, insurance status, geographic location, race, and gender influence who can and cannot receive mental health services. Not surprisingly, many of these same barriers to accessing health care are stressors for her Well documented negative effects On the mental and physical health of people.

Young people experience mental health problems at exceptionally high rates, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. A report released by SAMHSA in October 2021 found that an estimated 7.9 million American teens ages 12 to 17 had received some form of mental health service in 2020, although that number may be significantly less than the number who sought care. or needed it. The barriers to adolescents’ access to mental health services are similar to those faced by adults, but the risks of not receiving such care are more serious: adolescents and young adults have The highest suicide rates for all age groups.

Mental health care can include specialized services such as inpatient or outpatient visits with a private therapist or psychologist in a mental health clinic, hospital program, or residential treatment center. Non-specialized services include school counselors or psychiatrists, school programs for children with behavioral problems, pediatricians, juvenile detention centers or prisons, and child care services or foster care. In 2020, 17% of teens received specialized mental health services, and 18% received help from a non-specialist source, according to SAMHSA.

Charlie Health Survey data analysis from 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health And SAMHSA To identify adolescents who received mental health services across the United States, survey data was collected via a combination of telephone and in-person interviews, as well as online surveys.

The coordinated sample design is based on the state with an independent, multistage probability sampling within each state and the District of Columbia. SAMHSA collects data about gender and sexuality based on the binary classifications of “male” and “female,” which excludes basic information about the mental health experiences of those who do not fit into these categories.

In this analysis, supplemental data on LGBTQ+ adolescent mental health is from a 2022 survey by Trevor Project It can be compared to national probability surveys such as those used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention At-risk youth behavior monitoring system.

Read on to learn more about which teens are — and are not — able to access mental health treatment and the barriers that stand in their way.



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2.4 million adolescents received specialized mental health services for feelings of depression

Teenager in the shadows sitting on a bed with her hand on her head.

Mental health problems among teens have been on the rise for more than a decade, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Between 2009 and 2019, feelings of hopelessness and sadness persisted among high school students 40% increaseand suicide death rates for people between the ages of 10 and 24 have almost increased 47% on average From 2000 to 2018, according to a September 2020 CDC report.

Teens have cited academic and social pressures and cultural expectations about appearance as some of their challenges Top interestslikely to contribute to higher rates of depression and anxiety. The COVID-19 pandemic has also affected teens Unprecedented challenges, including a lack of socialization, less structured days, and an alarming increase in emotional abuse from parents or guardians. Not being able to attend school was particularly affecting those who were already in precarious circumstances, such as unsafe home conditions or poverty.

One of the changes in access to mental health services brought about by the pandemic has been The rise of online therapy and other telehealth treatments. Although telemedicine existed before the pandemic, it has exploded in popularity as lockdowns begin and social distancing becomes vital.

In June 2020, nearly three-quarters of mental health providers practiced Online exclusively. Now ubiquitous, online therapy has the potential to make mental health services more accessible for those who live in isolated geographic areas, have limited access to transportation, or have less flexibility in their schedules.



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Teens from low-income families were less likely to receive mental health support

Teenager sitting alone in a field with tall grass.

The relationship between poverty and poor mental health is cyclical, particularly with regard to access to mental health services. Both young adults and adults living in low-income families are at risk greater risk For mental health issues for reasons including conditions of deprivationincreased risk of ill health, and social stigma and discrimination.

At the same time, accessing appropriate mental health services as a low-income teen is more difficult than it is for other groups—in fact, teens living in poverty are the least likely to get mental health treatment. a variety of barriers Preventing low-income youth from receiving care: High costs of treatment, poor insurance coverage, limited provider availability, and lack of knowledge of available resources, if any.



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Adolescents in urban and non-urban areas received mental health support at similar rates

A teenager riding a bus resting his eyes and wearing a pink mask.

About 17% of young adults are in large metro areas He obtained mental health care in 2020compared to 18% in smaller cities and 16% in non-metro areas. However, there was a disparity between adolescents in entirely rural areas and those in urban areas. In 2019, only 13.6% of rural youth received specialized mental health services, compared to 16.8% in large metro areas. (For all rural areas, 2020 data was not provided due to low accuracy which was likely a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated social distancing restrictions.)

The gap in access to mental health treatment between rural and urban areas has been well documented – so much so that some researchers have even put it calls to action to correct the discrepancy. There are two reasons for the scale gap Fewer service providers In rural areas, fewer resources among those seeking care. Adolescents in rural areas are particularly vulnerable to this limited access because many mental health providers who We specialize in working with young people more concentrated in urban areas.



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Girls were twice as likely to receive mental health care as boys

Teenage girl sitting on the beach looking at her phone.

The gender gap was in adolescent mental illness Universally observedAdolescent girls report greater rates of mental health problems than boys in most countries. While the size of the gender gap varies greatly between countries, studies have shown that wealthier Western countries have Poor mental health outcomes and a larger gender gap from low- and middle-income countries. In the United States, 65% of adolescents who received mental health care were female, while only 35% were male.

While explanations for the gender gap in general InconclusiveThe researchers hypothesized that this could be explained in part by the experience of teenage girls Disproportionately higher rates of sexual violence compared to boys. Sexual violence and trauma are factors that significantly affect health and psychological well-being.

Some studies caution against taking the higher reported rates of mental health problems among teenage girls at face value, however. A 2022 study published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health found that teenage boys Often symptoms are not reported Mental illness or acting out rather than understanding their feelings. The report indicates that socialization between males and females often conflicts with internal emotional reflection. This finding also indicates that more adolescent girls receive mental health treatment and diagnosis than boys.



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Only 6% of Asian American teens received specialized mental health services

People wearing masks are behind signs against Asian hate.

Many barriers prevent nonwhite teens from accessing mental health treatment. Interwoven systemic issues such as racism and poverty negatively affect the mental health of young people (and adults), increasing their likelihood of experiencing violence, discrimination, and trauma. At the same time, these systemic problems make it difficult for young people to access treatment services for reasons that include affordability and availability of care.

These are not the only obstacles that Black, Latino, Asian, and Indigenous youth face when trying to access mental health care. A study in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychology found that teens are in minorities as well less likely To receive evidence-based, culturally competent care.

General and specialty mental health services and resources have historically not been distributed equitably, creating disparities that disproportionately affect communities of color. Meanwhile, the young whites have significantly higher access rates for these resources. Distrust of medical institutions, cultural stigma (which tends to affect Asians more deep compared to other societies) and other negative attitudes toward mental health treatment can also affect young people’s access to services.



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Of the 82% of LGBTQ+ youth who wanted mental health care in the past year, more than half could not get it

A group of high school students holding banners and a pride flag.

LGBTQ+ teens experience high rates of mental health problems for reasons that include societal marginalization, discrimination, and legal barriers to receiving affirmative healthcare. According to The Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey of LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, nearly half of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered suicide in the last year. Mental health outcomes were significantly better when gay youth felt supported and accepted at home or at school.

For transgender and non-binary teens, in particular, who receive gender-affirming health care Reduces adverse mental health outcomes such as suicide, self-harm, and psychological distress. Recent legislative actions in several states targeting affirmation of health care for trans youth, in addition to economic and social barriershas affected access to this type of therapy, particularly for low-income LGBTQ+ teens and youth of color.

LGBTQ+ youth also face barriers when seeking mental health services. Besides financial and social hurdles, many LGBTQ+ teens struggle to find a mental health provider who practices culturally competentEvidence-based, specialized care.

This story originally appeared on Charlie Health and was produced by and
Distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.


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