There are more US children treated for mental health disorders today than in years past, but most of the kids have relatively mild symptoms, according to a new study.
The total number of American children and teens in treatment for mental health disorders has risen by about 50 percent in the past 20 years, raising concerns of overtreatment with antidepressants and other medications.
The research was published in the May 21 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, and raises questions about the use of antidepressants, stimulants used for ADHD, and antipsychotic drugs, according to lead researcher Dr. Mark Olfson, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University in New York City.
Olfson says that his findings suggest that kids with less serious symptoms comprise a large share of young people getting mental health care — whether that means medication or “talk therapy.”
“But we don’t know if that’s a positive or a negative development,” said Olfson. “When you’re looking at trends across the whole U.S., you can’t tell who does or doesn’t ‘need’ treatment.”
He expressed the concern that there are many children with more severe symptoms who do not receive treatment.