December 19, 2012

Too little help for the young with mental health problems

Health Day - In the aftermath of the mass shooting that claimed the lives of 20 children in Newtown, Conn., last Friday, voices around the nation are asking, "How could this have happened?"

Details of Lanza's mental health issues are still emerging, but it's clear he was a troubled child and young adult. .... Most agree, however, that children and young people with mental health issues across the United States are falling through the cracks of an inadequate system.

According to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, half of all cases of mental illness begin to develop before the age of 14. Despite this, the United States has a dire shortage of child mental-health providers, said Dr. Howard Liu .... at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. As far back as 2007, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration commissioned a report looking at the issue. "This report found that there were many gaps in the mental health system, including a critical shortage of all child and adolescent providers," Liu said. In the report's words, "There is a critical shortage of individuals trained to meet the needs of children and youth, and their families.

As just one example, the federal government has projected the need for 12,624 child and adolescent psychiatrists by 2020, which far exceeds the projected supply of 8,312. There currently are only 6,300 child and adolescent psychiatrists nationwide, with relatively few located in rural and low-income areas." prescribe treatments, nor should they," Galea said. Indeed, the Washington Post reported Monday that officials at Lanza's high school had assigned him a permanent psychologist during his freshman year of 2007, as well as informing the school's chief of security about the boy. But Richard Novia, the director of security at the Newtown School District at the time, told the Post that the concern was for Lanza's safety, not the safety of others. "At that point in his life, he posed no threat to anyone else," Novia said. "We were worried about him being the victim or that he could hurt himself." Getting a child with mental illness the care he needs can be a "cumbersome" process, as Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, chair of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, told CBS News. He said that even if a person announces specific plans to cause harm, a doctor would need to call law enforcement and fill out reams of paperwork to help contain what may or may not be a real threat. "In one way, you've got to protect the confidentiality and rights of patients, [on] the other hand, we have a duty to protect society," he said. "Right now, the balance is tipped in favor of the individual against the interests of society."

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Anonymous said...

Schizophrenia often has its roots in childhood, but other disorders don't.

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who is a psychologist, she works with both adults and young people. She tells me that the insurance companies demand that she get all her patients on anti-depressants and similar psychotropic medications within 6 visits. The insurance companies will only pay for 6 visits of therapy. The paperwork and hassles involved in getting a person more therapy are frequently insurmountable.

It's unconscionable that meds become the first resort for troubled young people, after so many of these mass killers are either on these meds or in withdrawal from these meds. I'm just waiting to read what Adam Lanza was on or in withdrawal from.