MONDAY, March 29, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Over half of high-risk children in the United States are not receiving behavioral health services critical to their mental, emotional and physical well-being, new research warns.
"It's a pretty simple and kind of widely agreed upon finding that there are a lot of at-risk kids, when you look at it in terms of adversities or symptoms, who aren't getting mental health services, behavioral health services, that would be of benefit to them," said study co-author David Finkelhor. He directs the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center.
Lack of treatment for kids who struggle with depression, anxiety and/or several adverse childhood experiences is more severe among children of parents with only high school-level educations and children of color, with Black kids found to be the least likely to have access to behavioral health services.
"The implication is, we should really be doing a lot more to try and facilitate services for this segment of the population," said Finkelhor.
A noteworthy outlier in the study: High-risk children with nontraditional family structures were far more likely than their counterparts to have received mental health services.
For the study, the researchers examined the results from three national surveys of children's exposure to violence, which included nearly 12,000 kids aged 10 to 17 and caregivers of children aged 2 to 9. The team found that between 41% and 63% of high-risk youths surveyed went without any professional help.
The report was published online recently in JAMA Network Open.
This dearth of services can impact children long term, said Dr. Tarik Hadzic, a child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist in Los Angeles, who was not involved with the study.
"These are little kids. Half of this group [aged] 2 to 9 was ages 2 to 5," said Hadzic. "These are paramount times in the development of a child's brain, when an early intervention can have huge positive effects on appearance of both [mental health issues and adverse childhood experiences]. You can affect both mental and physical conditions later, because kids with untreated mental health conditions will go on to have more problems as adults."