Symptom Profiles Identify Unmet Child Mental Health Needs

Fewer than 25 percent of children with at least one symptom profile received services in past half year

MONDAY, Oct. 31 (HealthDay News) -- Symptom profiles have been identified that may help detect children with unmet mental health needs, according to a study published online Oct. 24 in Pediatrics.

Peter S. Jensen, M.D., from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, N.Y., and colleagues investigated warning signs to recognize children with unmet mental health needs, in order to help bring them to the attention of health care providers for evaluation and possible services. Epidemiologic data were analyzed from more than 6,000 children and parents in order to: identify the prevalence of common but severely limiting symptom profiles; evaluate the frequencies of symptom profiles based on age and gender; assess positive predictive values of symptom profiles with regards to diagnoses from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders; and to determine whether children receive mental health services if they have one or more symptom profile.

The investigators found that the frequency of symptom profiles varied from 0.5 to 2.0 percent, with 8 percent of the children having one or more symptom profiles. The positive predictive values for impairing psychiatric diagnoses generated by the profiles were 52.7 to 75.4 percent. However, for children with one or more symptom profiles, fewer than 25 percent had received services in the previous half of a year.

"Scientifically robust symptom profiles that reflect severe but largely untreated mental health problems were identified. Used as 'action signs,' these profiles might help increase public awareness about children's mental health needs, facilitate communication, and referral for specific children in need of evaluation, and narrow the child mental health services gap," the authors write.

Two authors disclosed financial ties to the biopharmaceutical industry.

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