Research News in Youth Mental Health - January 2024

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Research News in Youth Mental Health - January 2024

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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50-State Early Childhood Policy Progress and Landscape Report

The Alliance for Early Success released a summary of the progress towards child well-being in 2023. The 50-state brief is a dive into the past year's developments in state early childhood policy and advocacy, showing that state governments can and do act to improve child well-being with policy choices.


Types of On-Screen Content Matters for Kindergarten Mental Health

In this cohort study of nearly 16,000 kindergarten children in China, screen exposure was consistently associated with risk for mental health problems, but this varied by content type. Specifically, under a given total screen time, children with a higher proportion of screen exposure to educational programs had a lower risk for mental health problems, whereas the other content not designed for children were associated with a higher risk for such problems. The findings of this study suggest that both screen time and the on-screen content matter for children’s mental health.


National Academies of Science Release: Social Media and Adolescent Health

Social media has been fully integrated into the lives of most adolescents in the U.S., raising concerns among parents, physicians, public health officials, and others about its effect on mental and physical health. Over the past year, an ad hoc committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine examined the research and drafted a detailed consensus study report exploring that effect. The committee made recommendations for policymakers, regulators, industry, and others in an effort to maximize the good and minimize the bad. Topics covered include platform design, transparency and accountability, digital media literacy among young people and adults, online harassment, and supporting researchers. 


To Bolster Mental Health and Improve Learning, Schools Ban Cellphones

Recently in a report on Technology in Education, the United Nations recommended a global ban on smart phones in schools. Bans are increasing but vary by school, district, state, and nation. (Here’s a sample of some Wisconsin districts’ policies.) Tweens, teens and their parents have mixed reviews of the new restrictions amid concerns about the effects on safety. Advocates cite benefits on young people’s academic achievement and mental health. In the Green Bay area, one teacher has noticed improvements in students’ mental health and social interactions since implementing a strict cellphone ban this school year at Luxemburg-Casco Middle School. Students have to keep their devices in their lockers from first to last bell. The early results have been promising: students seem more engaged and connected with one another.


Police Officers in Schools Impact Student Mental Health

Research has increasingly questioned whether police are effective in schools, finding that they do not deter intruders and can wear down students' mental health. In 2021, a Johns Hopkins Medicine review of 40 years of studies found police contact with Black youth can be associated with poor mental health, substance use, risky sexual behaviors and impaired safety. Read story about the mandated return of police in Milwaukee Public Schools.


Provisional Suicide Death Data for the U.S.

The CDC’s provisional data from 2022 suggest some potentially positive developments. Although overall suicide rates have continued to increase, the data show an 18% drop for young people ages 10–14 and a 9% drop for young people ages 15–24, from 2021 to 2022. Non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native populations, which have some of the highest suicide rates, also reportedly had a 5% decrease in suicide rates from 2021 to 2022. Importantly, these data are provisional and therefore subject to change with additional information, and not all drops are statistically significant given the small size of some groups. A newly released CDC report on the demographics of these provisional data show breakdowns by age, gender, and race.


Youth Suicide: Current Trends and the Path to Prevention

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 12–24. This new report, created in collaboration with mental health researchers and clinicians who work directly with youth, explores the most recent data on youth mental health and suicide to offer a detailed look at what youth are experiencing and what we can do to support their emotional well-being and lower suicide risk, including nine essential steps to lowering suicide risk among all youth.


American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Updates Guidance on Addressing Youth Suicide Risk

The AAP recommends pediatricians and health professionals screen youth for suicidal ideation and risk factors of suicide. “Suicide is complex but often preventable,” said Janet Lee, MD, FAAP, one of the authors of the report. “Because of their long-term relationships with teens and their families, pediatricians and other pediatric health care providers are in a unique position to have open communication with young people to discuss mental health and suicidality. This clinical report supports pediatricians in the work they do every day around suicide prevention by helping them recognize risk factors and highlighting evidence-based interventions.”  In the updated clinical report, a range of interventions are recommended, appropriate for parents and pediatricians, including:

  • Personalize coping strategies that work for the individual child
  • Gauge access to deadly devices, particularly firearms, during preventive care visits
  • Engage parents and families in suicide prevention and treatment efforts particularly sleep hygiene, community engagement, and social connections.

An additional AAP resource, Blueprint for Youth Suicide Prevention, outlines a 3-tiered pathway that begins with a brief screen lasting no more than one minute. Next is a brief suicide safety assessment for anyone who screens positive that evaluates the frequency of suicidal thoughts, plans, mental health symptoms, and suicide history. The final component is to identify the next steps for care. 


Pediatric Integrated Primary Care: An Implementation and Training Manual for Professionals

This training manual is designed to address the need for improved preparation of integrated behavioral health providers for careers in addressing the healthcare needs, both physical and behavioral, of children, adolescents, and families. To become proficient and capable in behavioral health delivery within a primary care setting requires preparation, training, and some degree of clinical modeling, supervision, and feedback. Most graduate training programs in behavioral health are relatively “insulated,” are not located within academic health science centers, and do not prepare students for practice in medical settings—particularly in primary care clinics. This trend is slowly changing through increases in inter-professional education between mental and physical health providers.


Disabled LGBTQ+ Youth At Greater Risk Of Suicide Than Their Peers

A report released this week by a youth suicide prevention group found that young LGBTQ+ people who are disabled have higher rates of mental health issues and are at greater risk of suicide compared to their non-disabled peers.

From a story on the study: “Feeling seen, understood, and affirmed is powerful for all LGBTQ+ youth ― particularly those who live at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities — and is consistently related to more positive mental health outcomes. It’s imperative that mental health professionals seek disability-related training in order to better understand the unique challenges that LGBTQ+ youth with disabilities face, and be equipped to provide quality care based on these factors.”