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Media advisory: Report that mental illness rates in children dropping is good, but more work needed

Friday, May 22, 2015

LAWRENCE — A recent New England Journal of Medicine study reported that the rate of severe mental illness in children and adolescents has dropped significantly over the past generation. The news contradicts public perception and widely held beliefs that diagnoses were on the rise.

Mental health and child welfare professionals often debate the rates of diagnoses and treatment of mental health in children. While some insist children who do not need medication are being treated, others claim that more often children who could benefit from treatment are not getting it.

Amy Mendenhall, assistant professor and director of the Center for Children & Families in the School of Social Welfare at the University of Kansas, is available to speak with media about the report and related debate. Mendenhall specializes in child and adolescent mental health, specifically serious mental illness, service utilization, mental health literacy and the effect of mental illness on families. She can discuss the report, the state of mental health services for children and adolescents in America, and the debate over rates of diagnosis and treatment.

“If the trends in this report are accurate, that is fantastic news, and perhaps we are truly starting to make headway in educating people about mental illness and decreasing stigma,” Mendenhall said. “However, there still are significant numbers of youth who suffer from mental illness and do not get the treatment that they need. Often these are minority or disadvantaged youth who are dealing with mental illness in addition to many other complex life circumstances. The problem isn’t solved until all youth with mental illness are getting equal access to high-quality mental health services.”

Mendenhall’s research has investigated clinicians’ perceptions of children’s mental health literacy, effectiveness of Mental Health First Aid courses, service utilization of children diagnosed with bipolar disorder and related topics.

To schedule an interview, contact Mike Krings at mkrings@ku.edu or 785-864-8860.

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