Minority youth rarely access mental health services, study finds

Race and ethnicity have an impact on children's access to mental health services, according to a study published Friday in the International Journal of Health Services.

For the study, researchers analyzed racial and ethnic disparities in mental health and substance abuse care among children and young adults using nationally representative data from the 2006–2012 Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys.

The study found about 5.7 percent of white children and young adults were likely to see a mental health specialist in a given year, compared with about 2.3 percent for black or Hispanic young people, according to Kaiser Health News.

The study also found that even when controlling for mental health status, insurance and income, blacks' and Hispanics' visit rates for treatment were about half those of non-Hispanic whites for outpatient mental health services. Black and Hispanic children had about 130 fewer visits per thousand subjects than their white counterparts, Kaiser Health News reported. Black young adults visited a mental health specialist about 280 fewer visits per thousand; Hispanics had 244 fewer visits per thousand.

According to the study, black and white children had similar psychiatric inpatient and emergency department utilization rates. Hispanic children had lower hospitalization rates than blacks and whites.

"Psychiatric and behavioral problems among minority youth often result in school punishment or incarceration, but rarely mental healthcare," researchers concluded.

In giving a few possible reasons for this, researchers noted that different communities may attach greater stigma about mental healthcare, or they may place less trust in the physicians available, according to Kaiser Health News. The shortage of child psychiatrists nationwide was also noted.

 

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