More Youth Finding Treatment for Mental Illness

While more kids are getting treatment for mental illnesses, this has also meant a rise in prescriptions for psychotropic medications, including the problems that go along with them. In a study on mental health treatment for adolescents, researchers found that compared to 1995 there are twice as many children today being treated for mental illness, and at a faster rate than adults. But the researchers also found that the number of visits that had to do with prescribed mental health medications for children have also risen, and at the same rate as adults. More medication can offer more relief, but it could also be easily misused and abused. Overall, when more youth are receiving the mental health treatment they need with the appropriate amount of correct medication then mental health specialists truly have reason to rejoice. The study, which was published in the November 27, 2013 issue of JAMA Psychiatry, showed that at the study’s start in 1995, for every 100 youth aged 20 or younger there were eight doctor appointments where a physician diagnosed a youth with a mental illness. By 2010 that number had risen to 15. Adults were also analyzed in this study. Although the number of adults who were treated for mental illness also increased, it was not as large of an increase as it was for the youth. In 1995 there were 23 visits where adults were diagnosed with a mental illness, and in 2010 there were 28 visits. The study is encouraging to doctors who hope that more youth are getting access to mental health treatment. On the other hand, doctors must pay special attention to proper prescription medicine distribution and watch for any signs of drug misuse. Both adults and youth in the study were twice as likely in 2010 to receive a prescription for their mental illness than they were in 1995. Medication is one way to help manage mental illness and is very effective for some people. The problem comes when it is misused. Multiple studies show how today’s youth are using someone else’s attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medication as a study aid. Youth who have never been diagnosed with a mental illness are finding ways to acquire drugs like Adderall that can help them focus more intensely on their studying and during a test exam. But they’re putting their bodies and minds at risk when they take drugs not prescribed to them. In the study, ADHD was the most common youth mental disorder diagnosed, and the drugs to treat ADHD were the most commonly prescribed. In the right hands, prescription medicine can save lives and minds, but studies are showing that the wrong hands are very common. More and more pediatricians are working to heal their young patients holistically using the right avenues for healthy mind and body recovery. No longer are they just the doctor who inspects physical ailments and quickly refers mental ailments to specialists before completely disengaging. While doctors today may still refer patients on to mental health specialists for specific therapy, they’re more likely to prescribe medication and follow up and inquire about their patient’s mental health. Dr. Mark Olfson, one of the study’s researchers and a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University in New York, stresses that physicians need to stay vigilant about making sure that all patients get treated for mental illnesses if they need it. He says that doctors often recommend psychotherapy before they prescribe medication, hoping that coping strategies and other therapy can help empower the youth to manage their illness before they rely on pills to do it. With more pediatricians reaching out to their patients’ mental health needs, more youth will get a head start on healing their mind and managing their mental illness.

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