Mental disorders in Australian 4- to 17- year olds: Parent-reported need for help

Sarah Johnson, David Lawrence, Michael Sawyer, Stephen R. Zubrick

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Abstract

Objective:

To describe the extent to which parents report that 4- to 17-year-olds with symptoms meeting Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition criteria for mental disorders need help, the types of help needed, the extent to which this need is being met and factors associated with a need for help.
Method:

During 2013–2014, a national household survey of the mental health of Australia’s young people (Young Minds Matter) was conducted, involving 6310 parents (and carers) of 4- to 17-year-olds. The survey identified 12-month mental disorders using the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children – Version IV (n = 870) and asked parents about the need for four types of help – information, medication, counselling and life skills.
Results:

Parents of 79% of 4- to 17-year-olds with mental disorders reported that their child needed help, and of these, only 35% had their needs fully met. The greatest need for help was for those with major depressive disorder (95%) and conduct disorder (93%). Among these, 39% of those with major depressive disorder but only 19% of those with conduct disorder had their needs fully met. Counselling was the type of help most commonly identified as being needed (68%). In multivariate models, need for counselling was higher when children had autism or an intellectual disability, in blended families, when parents were distressed, and in the most advantaged socioeconomic areas.
Conclusions:

Many children and adolescents meeting Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition criteria for mental disorders have a completely unmet need for help, especially those with conduct disorders. Even with mild disorders, lack of clinical assessment represents an important missed opportunity for early intervention and treatment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-162
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
Volume52
Issue number2
Early online date2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018

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