Modern Australian

3 out of 4 kids with mental health disorders aren't accessing care

  • Written by Melissa Mulraney, Postdoctoral research fellow, Murdoch Children's Research Institute

Three-quarters of Australian children with mental health disorders aren’t getting professional help, according to our new research. Girls, younger children and families from non-English-speaking backgrounds are the least likely to access mental health services.

We looked at the mental health of just under 5,000 Australian children aged eight to 13 via parental surveys of their child’s emotional and mental health. We then linked the results with Medicare data to see which families had accessed help.

Fewer than one in four children we identified as having a mental health problem saw a health professional in the 18 months after we surveyed them.

Read more: What's the best way to screen for child mental health issues?

Left unaddressed, mental health problems can become more entrenched and harder to treat. And mental health problems in childhood can have lifelong ramifications including increased risk of mental health problems in adulthood, poor educational attainment, unemployment, and contact with the criminal justice system.

So ensuring children and adolescents who experience mental health problems receive access to timely and effective care is essential.

What types of mental health problems do kids have?

Around 14% of children and adolescents aged four to 17 meet diagnostic criteria for at least one mental health disorder.

The most common mental health disorders in Australian children in this age group are anxiety disorders, which affect 6.9% of children, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which affects 7.4% of children.

Around 50% of all adult mental disorders begin before the age of 14. Yet in 2017-18, children under the age of 15 had the lowest use of Medicare-rebated mental health services (5.1%) of any Australian age group.

Read more: How to know if your child is addicted to video games and what to do about it

Younger children

Younger children were less likely to access services than older children. Some 20-27% of children aged 12-13 years accessed services, compared to 9-15% of children aged eight to nine years.

Young children respond to and process emotional experiences and traumatic events in ways that are very different from adults and older children. Consequently, it can be more difficult to recognise problems in early childhood.

A child acting up in the classroom, for example, may be perceived as being “naughty” rather than having mental health problems. Or a child may experience stomach aches and headaches which are caused by anxiety but thought to be a physical problem.

3 out of 4 kids with mental health disorders aren't accessing care Boys are more likely to receive help for mental disorders than girls. From shutterstock.com

When problems are recognised, families may delay getting help for young children in the hope that they will “grow out of” the mental disorder.

While this may apply in some cases, treatment is still important. Take ADHD, for example. Although about 80% of children with ADHD will grow out of it by adulthood, children with ADHD often find it hard to make friends. If they miss out on developing their social skills early in life, it can become increasingly difficult to make friends during adolescence and adulthood when peer relationships become more complex.

In our study, the factors most consistently associated with getting support were symptom severity and parent perception that the child needed help.

The gradual onset and increase in severity over time of many mental health problems means children and their parents are more likely to seek services when the symptoms become severe or impact significantly on the child’s ability to function. This typically occurs as they grow older.

Read more: Children’s well-being goes hand in hand with their dads’ mental health

Boys versus girls

We found girls were less likely to receive care than boys. Girls made up 50% of children with mental health problems in the study, yet accounted for just 30% of children who received support for emotional problems at ages eight to 11.

This may have something to do with the fact that mental health conditions can be more difficult to recognise in girls.

Boys are more likely to externalise problems such as anxiety by reacting angrily when asked to do something that upsets them. Girls are more likely to internalise these issues by withdrawing or appearing very quiet, making problems harder to detect. In an environment like the classroom, boys’ problems are more likely to get noticed because of their disruptive nature.

Culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds

Around 14% of children with emotional problems came from a non-English speaking background, but they only accounted for 2% who received help.

The reluctance of parents from non-English speaking backgrounds to get help may be related to different cultural understandings of mental health and illness. They may also struggle to find services for their child in their own language.

Mental health conditions may also be more difficult to recognise among children from non-English speaking backgrounds, where quietness in the classroom may be mistaken for a language issue rather than a mental health issue.

We need change

Over the past 20 years there has been little change in the prevalence of child and adolescent mental disorders in Australia despite increased investment in resources. This is likely in part because the quality and the intensity of services provided have not improved.

Children may not be receiving sufficient treatment sessions or treatment sustained over a long enough period to meaningfully impact on their symptoms. It’s recommended that children receive at least eight sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy for the treatment of anxiety, for example, but many children will require more.

Australia’s health system rewards discharging patients from care within a set number of appointments rather than once they have improved. The Medicare Better Access scheme allows for a maximum of ten subsidised appointments with a psychologist in a calendar year. But again, many children require more.

Read more: What about the mental health of kids with intellectual disability?

We need a system-level shift to funding based on measured symptom improvement rather than a capped number of appointments both in hospital settings and in the community.

Our research suggests we need to better understand parent and child drivers of why children miss out on care, particularly girls, younger children, and those from diverse backgrounds. Doing so and ensuring access to high-quality care will benefit not only the child and their family now but also the adult they will become.

Authors: Melissa Mulraney, Postdoctoral research fellow, Murdoch Children's Research Institute

Read more http://theconversation.com/3-out-of-4-kids-with-mental-health-disorders-arent-accessing-care-118597

NEWS

who the suspects are, what they're charged with, and what happens next

Four men – three Russians and one Ukrainian – will be charged in relation to the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which killed all 298 passengers and...

a river does need all its water

Given her new role as federal environment minister, one of Sussan Ley’s comments in an interview with Nine Newspapers was eyebrow-raising, to put it mildly. She said:Sometimes the environment doesn’t...

There are 70 million refugees in the world. Here are 5 solutions to the problem

Little has been done to help the millions of refugees from Myanmar, Venezuela, Syria and other troubled countries find permanent resettlement options.Nyein Chan Naing/EPAThis week, the UN High Commissioner for...

Australians' trust in news media is falling as concern over 'fake news' grows

The report found that Australian news consumers access news less often and have lower interest in it compared to citizens in many other countries.ShutterstockOn today’s episode, we hear from Caroline...

Here's how to make our cities breastfeeding-friendly

The more comfortable women feel about breastfeeding in public, the better for both babies and society.Maxim Krivonos/ShutterstockSeen through the eyes of new mothers, our towns and cities can often seem...

Indies & Idols mixes rock stars with modern Polish composers

Artistic Director Richard Tognetti and members of the orchestra: the rock musicians whose work feature in this concert openly acknowledge the influence of the seemingly inaccessible avant-garde. Julian KingmaReview: Indies...

how is the Sun burning?

A nuclear reaction is under way inside the Sun. Emily Nunell/The Conversation CC-NY-BD, CC BYCurious Kids is a series for children. If you have a question you’d like an expert...

What you need to know about wearable tech radiation exposure

With constant advancements in technology, it can be difficult to keep up-to-date with the latest tech trends. Smartphones, smart watches, and VR are all readily available in shops, with newer...

young women share their stories of homelessness

People between the ages of 25 and 34 are the largest group of woman who find themselves homeless.Oleg Golovnev/ShutterstockIncreasing numbers of women lack a safe and secure place to call...

Buck-passing on apartment building safety leaves residents at risk

Hundreds of residents in a Sydney apartment complex, the 122-unit Mascot Towers, were evacuated last Sunday when cracks began to appear due to a serious structural failure. And it isn’t...

Krokodil, the Russian 'flesh-eating' drug, makes a rare appearance in Australia

The use of Krokodil has fluctuated throughout the 21st Century.From shutterstock.comA young man recently turned up at a rural drug and alcohol service in New South Wales seeking help because...

Myth busted. Boosting super would cost the budget more than it saved on age pensions

Compulsory super takes money out of the government's coffers faster than savings on the pension put it back in.ShutterstockIt is often claimed that Australia’s superannuation system will ease the budgetary...

Popular articles from Modern Australian

How Weight Loss Could Affect the Results of Your Breast Enhancement Procedure5 Outdoor Design Ideas that Marry Form and FunctionFinal Frontier - 5 Ways the Digital Landscape Has Changed Business for GoodCosmetic Physician, Dr. Phoebe Jones shares her expert tips on how to treat the most asked about skincare problemsYvonne Allen: How to improve your sex life in your relationshipThe Rug Lady Announces The Launch Of The Latest Saffia Rug Range7 Tips To Get Your Home Ready For WinterFuture-proofing your career prospectsYour Winter Hot Water System Guide for 2019Circulatory System Diseases and Risk FactorsEXYRA eyewearShould you get a hair transplant in Turkey if your hair is grey?Do You Need a Tummy Tuck or Just Liposuction?Best 4 Sassicaia Wine with Soothing Taste and AromaMarvelous Makeover - 5 Tips to Revitalize Your Look This Summer