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Most Adolescents Seeking Help for Mental Health Issues Suffer from Depression
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) examined a variety of areas that surround drug, alcohol, and other substance use and abuse among individuals in the U.S. This study also evaluated the current mental health of specific segments of the population, including adolescents aged 12 to 17.
Those adolescents who need to seek help for mental health services can look to a specialty mental health setting that can offer both inpatient and outpatient services; a school-based setting such as services received from school counselors, school psychologists, or special education teachers; and a general medical setting that includes services from pediatricians or family practice providers.
A recent NSDUH report found that in the previous study year, 12.5 percent of adolescents (or one in eight) received treatment or counseling in a specialty mental health setting for behavior or emotional problems; 11.5 percent sought services in an educational setting; and 2.8 percent received services in a general medical setting.
Another 5.1 percent of adolescents received services in both a specialty mental health setting and an educational or general medical setting in the past year. The most common reason provided by adolescents seeking treatment for health was depression. This reason was provided 50 percent of the time in the specialty mental health setting, 44.3 percent in the general medical setting, and 38 percent in the educational setting.
This study also found differences between the genders as female adolescents were more likely than their male counterparts to have received mental health services in the past year in outpatient specialty settings. This difference was represented by 13.3 percent versus 9.1 percent. In educational settings, the difference was 13.2 percent versus 9.9 percent. In the general medical setting, the difference was only 3.2 percent versus 2.3 percent. No gender difference was identified in the case of inpatient specialty settings.
While feelings of depression were cited most commonly across the different settings, services for suicidal thoughts and attempts were mentioned most often by adolescents who received care in a specialty mental health setting, especially for those receiving inpatient care.
Study data indicates that educators and health care providers may be among the first to be contacted regarding mental health issues among adolescents. As a result, these professionals must be equipped to recognize the warning signs associated with mental health issues as well as to direct the adolescent toward the appropriate services, which must be made available to adolescents and their families.