Research News in Youth Mental Health

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Research News in Youth Mental Health

Office of Children's Mental Health (OCMH) Senior Research Analyst, Amy Marsman spotlights recent articles, resources, and research findings impacting youth mental health.

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Why Telehealth is Vital for Addressing the Children’s Mental Health Crisis Affecting Emergency Departments Nationwide (Story)

In a recent call for action, leading medical bodies agree that telehealth is integral to providing accessible and equitable mental health care for children. Following a 2021 declaration of a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health, recently the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a joint policy statement with the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA). The statement focused on telehealth as a vital conduit to mental healthcare across settings and as a link to care for underserved communities. Providing psychiatric crisis care, telehealth is the cornerstone of a strategy for responsible, efficient, and equitable mental healthcare. Also see related story on trends in pediatric emergency visits.

Suicidal Ideation Common Among Transgender, Gender Diverse Youth in Emergency Visits (Story)

In 81% of encounters, transgender, gender diverse (TGD) youth in an urban emergency department screened positive on suicide questionnaire. Compared with cisgender youth, TGD youth were more than five times as likely to screen positive for suicide risk. The study authors emphasize the importance of universal screening to identify gender diverse youth who are at risk. Read more in the APA news release.

Childhood Mental Illness Surges Alongside COVID-19 Waves (Story)

While studies have noted the association between surging youth mental illness and the post-March 2020 world, few have systematically investigated the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic itself. In a Pediatrics article, researchers used national emergency department (ED) data to link rates of youth mental illness to the timing of five COVID-19 surges (through June 2022) in New York City (10.1542/peds.2022-060553). The authors found that emergency visits attributable to mental health—in all five waves—outpaced pre-pandemic norms. That is, the proportion of pediatric emergency mental health visits during the COVID-19 pandemic was higher during each wave compared with the pre-pandemic period. Eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and substance use disorders were particularly overrepresented. Females, adolescents, those who identified as Asian, and children from higher socioeconomic areas were also disproportionately affected. The sustained high rates of ED utilization for mental health emergencies through wave five of the pandemic may reflect continued insufficient resources and sociocultural barriers to mental health care services for youth.

Implementing social and emotional screening tools into pediatric practice (Interview)

Excerpt: As pediatricians we've become pretty good at developmental screening, meaning picking up where their children are walking and talking and being with developmental milestones on time. But even when we do that, it's not as effective at picking up the early kind of social, emotional, and behavioral challenges that children are facing. But it's really important that we do that, because probably half of mental and behavioral health conditions are going to emerge at the time that kids are 14 years old, and so we're seeing those kids in our practice. That means it's an opportunity to do something early, as long as we're able to screen and then identify and put interventions into place for kids that need them early and have a chance at changing the trajectory of the development of mental health problems and hopefully prevent some of them.

New research shows that although racism might not be the most common type of discrimination, it had the greatest impact on teens. (Story)

Research from the University of Michigan shows that although racism might not be the most common type of discrimination, it had the greatest impact on the 100 adolescents ages 13 to 19 that were surveyed. To measure impact, the researchers looked at spikes in a stress hormone called cortisol. Related research on race-based trauma found discrimination from peers was more stressful than similar comments from strangers or the stress or unfair treatment from teachers or administrators. According to a Child Mind brief on the misdiagnosis of mood disorders in black teens, clinicians should consider the role of racism and other systemic stresses when evaluating children of color. 

Improving Access to School-Based Behavioral Health Services Through Medicaid (Blog Article)

School-based behavioral health services can play a crucial role in young people’s health and wellness. Federal policymakers have an opportunity to optimize federal resources and new Medicaid flexibilities for states to increase access to mental health services in schools.

  • For story on millions of unclaimed Medicaid dollars for students, see NPR story.
  • For guide on claiming Medicaid in schools, see CMS Fact Sheet.

Kids in kinship care have better academic performance (Brief) New research suggests that kinship care—defined as the placement of children with relatives or other persons who have a close bond with the children—can improve academic outcomes and long-term success for children in out-of-home care (OOHC). A new Child Trends brief summarizes findings a recent study on the academic trajectories of children in formal and informal kinship care. The authors found that, among children in OOHC, children in both formal and informal kinship care fared better academically than children in non-relative foster care.

The study also found that children in formal kinship care performed best among all children in any form of OOHC; their academic performance was similar to that of children living with their birth or adoptive parents. It’s important to note that the majority of children in kinship care are informally placed; only 30% are formally placed.

The brief coincides with the release of new regulations from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that allow child welfare agencies to adopt simpler licensing or approval standards for kin foster family homes and require states to provide such homes the same level of financial assistance as traditionally licensed foster homes. 

Biden administration calls on schools to stock naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug (Story)

Overdose deaths among teens have been on the rise for years, and now the Biden administration is urging schools to purchase and carry the opioid overdose antidote naloxone. In a joint letter to educators Monday, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Dr. Rahul Gupta and US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said every school in the United States should carry naloxone, adding that faculty and students alike should be prepared to use the nasal spray to stop an overdose.

More Schools Stock Overdose Reversal Meds, but Others Worry About Stigma (KFF Health News)

The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration recommends that schools, including elementary schools, keep naloxone on hand as fatal opioid overdoses rise, particularly from the potent drug fentanyl. And 33 states have laws that expressly allow schools or school employees to carry, store, or administer naloxone. Reluctance to stock Narcan in schools can stem from officials being afraid to provide a medical service or the ongoing cost of resupplying the naloxone and training people to use it. But the main hang-up she’s heard is that schools are afraid they’ll be stigmatized as a “bad school” that has a drug problem or as a school that condones bad choices.

For details on Narcan proposals in Wisconsin schools, see WPR story.

Early Care and Education (ECE) Research Resources (Highlights)

These resources are designed to be accessible and offer ideas for how child care and early education leaders might use the research in their work. Research Highlights translate research into short, easy-to-use topics relevant to the ECE sector. Recently added topics include understanding access to nontraditional hour child care, COVID closures, and approaches to service coordination. This growing series translates research into brief, actionable summaries on relevant, timely topics for leaders.

OPRE is seeking input on new topics for child care and early education resource

Calling all state and territory leaders in the child care and early education field! The CCEEPRA Research Translation project is inviting you to share topic ideas that can be turned into short, easy-to-use resources to guide research-informed decisions that support young children and their families. There is a vast amount of research available, and it can be time consuming to sort through, difficult to understand, and unclear how it applies to your everyday work. Click here to learn more and submit your ideas here.  

Building a Strong Foundation: Increasing Access to Mental Health Services for Young Children (Brief)

Recently the Child Health and Development Institute released an issue brief on the importance of early childhood, as a critical period for building resilience and laying the foundation for healthy development and positive mental health. Experiences in these formative years shape people throughout childhood and into adulthood. This makes the early years a powerful time for both prevention and intervention. However, as concerns about youth mental health are growing, much of the focus is on older youth. Many of the strategies put forward to address children’s mental health needs are more likely to address the needs of older children than younger children. Effective and long-lasting solutions must include a focus on early childhood. This issue brief identifies effective strategies for strengthening promotion and prevention efforts and ensuring access to high-quality mental health services for young children. 

One in Four U.S. Children are Latino (Analysis)

Analysis by the National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families and university partners using the American Community Survey (ACS) 2017–2021 5-Year Data finds that Latino children comprise 25% of the nation’s child population. Latino kids are most populous in the Southwestern states (ranging from 45%-62% of the child population) and comprise a sizeable proportion (defined as 10% or more) of the child population in 35 states and the District of Columbia. In Wisconsin, Latino children are 13% of the child population.