In the United States, 75 to 80 percent of children and youth in need of mental health services do not receive them.1 This can be for a variety of reasons, including
Mental health treatment can includes a variety of different approaches and occur in a variety of settings. Services provided depend on the needs and choices of the youth and his or her family, and the diagnosis and severity of the problem. They may consist of services such as psychotherapy with an evidence-based practice, peer mentoring, care coordination, medication, or a combination of all approaches.
Youth may be receiving services in specialty treatment centers, educational settings, general medical settings, or a combination of settings. In 2008,
Systems of care, a framework for collaboration, can help to facilitate coordination of services and supports for young people with mental heal needs and their families.3 Learn more about coordinating systems to support youth with mental health needs, particularly those transitioning to adulthood at the Technical Assistance Partnership website.
The family and youth need to be involved in the planning and implementation process from the beginning of the treatment since the context the youth lives in is extremely important in helping determine his or her treatment.
Key Questions for Parents
There are many questions that parents and caregivers can ask when seeking help for their child or youth with behavioral health challenges. Examples include:
Guides for Families
There are also guides to assist families in making informed choices about treatment for their child or youth such as the SAMHSA Family Guide to Systems of Care for Children With Mental Health Needs which is available in both English and Spanish. Sometimes there is confusion about the definitions and roles of the various behavioral health disciplines such as the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist. The Child Health & Development Institute of Connecticut has provided a short guide describing the differences.
Resources for Identifying Services
Additionally, there are a variety of avenues through which to seek help. SAMHSA has a mental health services locator which provides a searchable map containing comprehensive information about mental health services and resources across the country. Additional services can be found through exploring the following:5
Mental Health Services Locator
This Locator, developed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, provides comprehensive information about mental health services and resources and is useful for professionals, consumers and their families, and the public. Search by state, zip code, and service type to find resources available in your area.
Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General
This Report of the Surgeon General on Mental Health is the product of a collaboration between two federal agencies, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the National Institutes of Health. The report provides an overview of mental health as well as a section targeted at children’s mental health. Sections of this report include information on interventions and service delivery.
1 Kataoka, et al 2002
2 SAMHSA, 2009
3 SAMHSA, 2006
4 Child Health & Development Institute of Connecticut, n.d.
5 American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 2004
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