Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Adolescents, Mental Health Treatment and Disparity

I have been thinking lately about the disparity between the need for adolescent mental health services and the relative lack of available treatment programs to address our current situation. We spend a lot of money on pediatric medical services for children and adolescents. We build Children's Hospitals, Children's Service in general hospitals, Cancer Centers, and Burn Centers. Many non profit organizations raise tremendous amounts of money for pediatric research and treatments. This is fantastic and has allowed more and more children and adolescents to have advanced state of the art treatment. We have made great strides in reducing morbidity and mortality from infectious diseases, cancers, heart problems, genetic diseases, neurologic diseases, and others. But the fact remains that we ignore the most widespread problems that are faced in this age group.

Morbidity and mortality from disorders that have a mental and behavioral component outweigh that of all other causes combined. The three major causes of death in pediatrics are accidents, murders, and suicide all of which have behavioral aspects. Complications of child abuse, substance abuse, and depression are more widespread than any other pediatric diseases. Sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancies are the two main gynecologic problems for our young people. What a disparity between the needs and the services available! In Tucson all funding for both inpatient and outpatient treatment programs have been cut and each year there are less available treatment options than the year before. There are fewer major non profit organizations that are raising money for more research and treatment as there are for other medical illnesses.

What is the answer? I don't know but I believe that we must bring more awareness to our society about this great disparity before we will make any changes. I hope that the Mental Health Parity Act that was recently signed into law will help move us in the right direction.

Thought for the day

Our children are our future.

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