Thursday, June 27, 2013

Challenges Come With Treating Children With Mental Health Problems in Rural Areas, Study Suggests

Children with the highest levels of impairment related to a mental disorder who live in rural areas are just as likely as their urban counterparts to be diagnosed and treated for mental health conditions, but children in rural areas with less-acute impairment are less likely to be diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder—the exception being ADHD, according to a new report from the Maine Rural Health Research Center at the University of Southern Maine.

Once diagnosed, rural children tend to receive prescriptions significantly more often than do urban youngsters, wrote Jennifer Lenardson, M.H.S., Samantha Neuwirth, M.D., and colleagues. About 8 percent of rural children are prescribed psychiatric drugs, compared with 6.4 percent of children in urban areas.

Lower rates of diagnosis among children with subacute mental health problems “may or may not indicate a need for counseling or medication,” said the researchers. “However, the lack of mental health specialty providers in rural areas means there is, in many cases, no provider available to determine whether treatment is indicated.”

Developing tools to help primary care clinicians or school counselors  in rural areas assess children’s needs and suggest referral options might be one way to overcome some of these differences, suggest the authors.

For more information on trying mental illness, including substance abuse, in rural areas, see Psychiatric News here and here.

(image: Oleksandr Lysenko/


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