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Study: More than 40,000 Michigan teens and kids don't get needed mental health treatment

young man sitting with his head in his hands in the middle of a field
Francisco Gonzalez
Francisco Gonzalez
A new study from the University of Michigan finds that around 40,000 children across the state are not getting needed mental health treatment.

Tens of thousands of children in Michigan aren't getting the mental health treatment that they need, according to a recent report published in JAMA Pediatrics.

University of Michigan researchers tracked the prevalence of three of the most common and treatable mental health disorders — depression, anxiety, and ADHD — among young people at both the national and state level. They also looked at how many of those kids and teens were getting treatment. 

Stateside talked to Daniel Whitney, the lead author of the report. He’s a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Michigan.

Credit Bella Isaacs / Michigan Radio

The study found that 17.6 percent of children and adolescents in Michigan have been diagnosed with one of the three disorders studied.  Of those around 100,000 kids and teens in the state, around 40 percent were not getting mental health treatment. That's slightly better than the national average, where around half of all kids with mental health disorders weren't getting treatment.

Various factors could be contributing to that gap in treatment, Whitney says, including “affordability, accessibility, and the stigma attached to mental health disorders."

Leaving children's mental health disorders untreated can have long-term consequences. Without help, Whitney says, children and teens see an overall worsening of mental health, which can lead to or exacerbate other health conditions. 

“When that happens, especially in childhood, that can impede healthful growth and transition into and throughout adulthood,” Whitney said.

One of the first steps to address this problem is to reduce the stigma attached to mental illness, says Whitney. How to do that? Whitney says we need to learn how to have better conversations about mental health. 

“Don’t just have a conversation with your child, establish a continuous open line of communication talking about these mental health disorders. These things can really go a long way,” he explained. 

This post was written by Stateside production assistant Isabella Isaacs-Thomas. 

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