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02-03 The most untreated behavioral health disorders in adolescents

The most untreated behavioral health disorders in adolescents

Only one-third of U.S. adolescents with behavioral health disorders receive treatment, as detailed in the latest iteration of the National Comorbidity Survey–Adolescent Supplement. Youths diagnosed with anxiety disorders, substance use disorders and eating disorders were the most untreated populations, with as few as 13 percent getting the services they require.

There are various ways to increase these national rates of treatment, but the responsibility falls on all of us to educate loved ones and improve health care policies to bring patients and professionals together.

How low can you go?

In an eye-opening study, Senior Investigator Kathleen R. Merikangas, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Mental Health uncovered further support that although mental and substance-related problems have risen to epidemic proportions, only a fraction receives professional help. For certain adolescent groups, this fraction can drop very low:

  • 18 percent with anxiety disorders receive treatment
  • 15 percent with substance use disorders receive treatment
  • 13 percent with eating disorders receive treatment

All three disorders can have deadly consequences, but each one is highly treatable as well. With such scarce proportions getting suitable levels of care, big changes need to take place on both social and societal levels.

Supporting increased insurance coverage

A perception that deters many teenagers and their parents from getting appropriate treatment is that it will cost them money they don’t have – especially because teens are commonly unemployed. In fact, some providers continue to limit monetary reimbursements and other coverage for specific conditions like eating disorders.

In general, people without health insurance must overcome greater obstacles when obtaining mental and addiction-based services. Without adequate coverage, people with behavioral health disorders have a higher risk of expensive emergency room visits, poor overall health and lower life status. Unfortunately, one in five Americans with a serious mental health condition are uninsured according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Learning how to intervene influentially

Another major hurdle preventing teens from receiving treatment is that their loved ones do not know how to intervene when an individual does not recognize his or her problem. Even if it is not successful, one important outcome of an intervention is planting the idea that a serious behavioral issue exists. Accepting this issue may come later.

Other helpful guidelines are encompassed in a “CONFRONT” plan:

  • C: Show concern as the primary reason for the confrontation.
  • O: Organize who will be involved, what everyone will say and how the intervention will take place.
  • N: Be aware of the person’s needs after all is said and done.
  • F: Face the individual directly with compassion – not anger.
  • R: Listen and respond to the person’s perspective.
  • O: Offer specific help, suggestions and support.
  • N: Negotiate another time to talk and an expected time to see a professional.
  • T: Acknowledge that effective recovery will take time.

When people are armed with the right environmental and practical resources, an increase in treatment rates are sure to follow. At Sovereign Health Rancho San Diego, we provide the tools necessary to address various types of adolescent disorders. If you or an adolescent in your life needs extra support, feel free to call our 24/7 helpline or contact us online for immediate and comprehensive care.

Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer

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