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Children With Mental Disorders Aren't Getting Help

A recent study by the University of Melbourne (Dr Melissa Mulraney & Prof Harriet Hiscock) has found the majority of Australian children with mental health disorders are not getting the right help.

The longitudinal study looked at nearly 5000 Australian children from all different backgrounds. Fewer than 1 in 4 with mental health problems saw a health professional in the 18 months after being identified as having a mental health issue.

Girls were less likely to access care than boys, as were families from non-english speaking backgrounds. The youngest age group of 8-9 year olds were also the least likely to access services.

The study is the first to look at Medicare data relating to service access rates, rather than parent reports (which likely over-state services accessed).

Attitudes that kids will 'grow out of it', or that 'it's a phase' are barriers to kids accessing treatment. Services were usually only accessed after an increase in severity over time, rather than early intervention. This can lead to mental health conditions that are harder to treat & take more time to improve.

This study shows us that mental health conditions don't just arise in adolescence, but often begin in early childhood. However, diagnosis can be more difficult in younger children. Medicare data from 2016-2017 shows children under the age of 15 have the lowest use of Medicare-rebated mental health services of any other Australian age group.

The study points out that the quality & intensity of services available have not improved, with most children who do access services not receiving treatment over a sustained period of time. One problem identified is that Medicare is based on a capped amount of sessions, rather than evidence of improvement. There is need for a systems-level shift to funding based on measured symptom improvement rather than number of sessions attended.

These findings clearly indicate we need to better understand why parents & children miss out on care, & ensure better access to effective services.

To read the research & article follow this link:)

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