Research News in Youth Mental Health - June 2024

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Research News in Youth Mental Health - June 2024

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OCMH Senior Research Analyst Amy Marsman spotlights recent articles, resources, and research findings impacting youth mental health.

Research on Pharmacy Deserts

Pharmacies are important health care access points, but no national map currently exists of where pharmacy deserts are located. This cross-sectional study used pharmacy address data and Census Bureau surveys to define pharmacy deserts at the census tract level in all 50 US states and D.C. We also compared sociodemographic characteristics of pharmacy desert vs non-pharmacy desert communities. In Wisconsin, there are a number of pharmacy deserts in counties throughout the Northern part of the state, including Ashland, Vilas, Sawyer, Washburn, Rusk, Price, Forest, Langlade, Oneida, Oconto, and Menominee County.


Use of Emergency Services for Mental Health Care

Wisconsin is one of 8 states that are above the national 75th percentile for rates of emergency departments (ED) visits for mental health conditions, indicating an overreliance on EDs among adults 19-64 for mental health care. Another study highlights the nationwide use of ED for mental health care, while emphasizing wide variations in rates of use between states and between mental disorders. The frequent use of emergency services for mental health care shown in this study might, in some cases, indicate a high degree of unmet need or a lack of access to outpatient mental health services.

Regional differences in Medicaid recipients’ mental health care experiences also demonstrate the importance of tailoring strategies to specific populations. The authors emphasize the need for context-specific, local solutions, which might start with looking at how mental health benefits are administered by state Medicaid agencies.


MHA Screening Report

Youth are struggling with their mental health and are seeking support online. 41% of individuals in the U.S. who took a screen in 2023 were under 18. Youth continue to show worrisome signs of suicidal ideation, with 49% of screeners under the age of 18 reporting frequent suicidal ideation on more than half or nearly every day of the previous two weeks. LGBTQ+ youth who identified as “other” race were most likely to report suicidal ideation at 64%.

Among those who screened positive or moderate to severe for a mental health condition in 2023, 58% cited body image or self-image as one of the top three reasons contributing to their mental health concerns, followed by 49% reporting relationship problems and 47% reporting school or work problems.

The number and percentage of people screening with moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety remain higher than rates prior to COVID-19 and are particularly severe for youth and Black, Indigenous, and people of color screeners. The percentage of people in 2023 scoring with moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety was highest among American Indian or Alaska Native screeners (84%). Within 18 months of its addition, the ADHD screen has surged in popularity, eclipsing depression to become the most popular screen in 2023.


Prevalence of ADHD

Pediatric ADHD remains an ongoing and expanding public health concern, as approximately 1 million more children had ever received an ADHD diagnosis in 2022 than in 2016. This prevalence study included over 45,000 children using 2022 NSCH data to estimate the prevalence of ever diagnosed and current ADHD among U.S. children aged 3–17 years. Among children with current ADHD, ADHD severity, presence of current co-occurring disorders, and receipt of medication and behavioral treatment were estimated.

According to new prevalence data, approximately 1 in 9 U.S. children have ever received an ADHD diagnosis (11.4%, 7.1 million children) and 10.5% (6.5 million) had current ADHD. Among children with current ADHD, 58.1% had moderate or severe ADHD, 77.9% had at least one co-occurring disorder, approximately half of children with current ADHD (53.6%) received ADHD medication, and 44.4% had received behavioral treatment for ADHD in the past year; nearly one-third (30.1%) did not receive any ADHD-specific treatment.


Prevalence of Positive Childhood Experiences (PCEs) Among Adults

A new multi-year, multi-state study that included Wisconsin reports that over half of adults (53%) experience high levels (6-7) of Positive Childhood Experiences (PCEs), closely aligning with prior findings. Findings show that adults with 6-7 PCEs, compared to those with 0-2, have 72% lower adjusted odds of experiencing depression or poor mental health and a 350% increase in odds of having strong adult social and emotional support.

Positive childhood experiences (PCEs) promote optimal health and mitigate the effects of adverse childhood experiences. Using Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data, this study describes the prevalence of individual and cumulative PCEs among adults residing in four states: Kansas (2020), Montana (2019), South Carolina (2020), and Wisconsin (2015).


2024 Maternal Mental Health State Report Cards Released

Given the large role that maternal mental health has on children’s mental health, the news that Wisconsin’s grade on the 2024 report cards went up to a C from a D last year and that the state exceeds the national average grade of D+, is promising. The Maternal Mental Health State Report Cards evaluate states on providers and programs; screening requirements and reimbursements; and insurance coverage and payment. Wisconsin scores were F (providers and programs); B (screening and reimbursements); and D (insurance coverage and payment).

According to KFF, perinatal depression affects as many as 20% of women in the U.S. during pregnancy, the postpartum period, or both, according to studies. In some states, anxiety or depression afflicts nearly a quarter of new mothers or pregnant women. This is especially true for Black and Native mothers who have high maternal mortality rates. Many women in the U.S. go untreated because there is no widely deployed system to screen for mental illness in mothers, despite widespread recommendations to do so. Experts say the lack of screening has driven higher rates of mental illness, suicide, and drug overdoses that are now the leading causes of death in the first year after a woman gives birth.


American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Addresses Safe Storage during National Gun Violence Awareness Month

Firearm violence has become the leading killer of children and young adults under 24, surpassing deaths from vehicle collisions since 2017. Evidence shows that the risk of injury or death is greatly reduced when firearms are securely stored, unloaded and locked, with the ammunition locked in a separate place that youth can't access. June is National Gun Violence Awareness Month and the AAP is not only calling attention to the sobering statistics, but is also offering tools for families, communities, and governmental entities to help prevent gun violence.


CDC’s 2022 School Health Profiles survey results are available.

State, local, and national data from the most recent School Health Profile reports covering how schools address bullying, provide health services, respond to adolescent mental health and prepare teachers to teach on those subjects can be analyzed in the Profiles Explorer tool. In Wisconsin, 8 in 10 (78%) schools have a lead health education teacher who’d like professional development on mental and emotional health.


The Impact of School Mental Health Services on Reducing Chronic Absenteeism

MHA teamed up with Healthy Schools Campaign and Attendance Works to discuss declines in student mental health and how this trend may be contributing to the drastic rise in chronic absence seen in most schools today. Students who are experiencing well-being and feel engaged are much more likely to attend school and achieve academically.


Data on child care and enrichment programming for school-age children

Research finds that high-quality child care and enrichment programming provided to school-age children (i.e., children ages 5-12 who are enrolled in school) during non-school hours (i.e., before or after school or during the summer) are associated with positive academic, physical, and social-emotional outcomes. Unmet demand for school-age child care is high, especially for families with lower incomes and for Black and Hispanic families: 51% of children living in low-income households and over 50% of Black and Latinx children would participate in afterschool programs if they were available to them, according to their caregivers. Despite the high need for SACC, there is limited publicly available data on this topic. This brief addresses strengths and gaps in existing in publicly available data.


It’s Not Stigma - Exploring Barriers to Mental Health Support Among U.S. Teens

The stigma attached to mental health issues is widely viewed as a major barrier for those in need of help, but its relevance to teens and young adults has not been studied in depth. The Jed Foundation’s research shows that stigma-related obstacles, like the shame caused by difficult emotions, are not the most important factors preventing teens from reaching out for mental health support. Their top concerns are that (1) others won’t understand them, (2) talking about difficult feelings would make them uncomfortable, and (3) they don’t want to be a burden to others. Teens primarily look for nonjudgmental support from parents, who are their top source of support. This report explores how parents, caregivers, and other adults can better enable teens to talk about their mental health.


Banning teens from social media might not help their mental health. Here’s what might.

Adolescents face overwhelming mental health challenges. It is essential for public online spaces to be safe for teens to use. But the fear and focus on social media’s possible harms (on which the science is mixed) may prevent key decision- and policymakers from considering another possibility: social media holds promise to support adolescent mental health, especially for teens facing barriers to treatment.

Research shows that light-touch, single-session interventions (SSIs) embedded into online spaces can help youth find interventions that work and increase teens’ odds of accessing resources. Evidence shows that such single-session interventions can meaningfully reduce depression and anxiety in teens—and the effects are only slightly smaller, on average, than those of traditional multi-session therapy. They also double rates of outreach to crisis resources among youths flagged as at-risk for self-harm based on their social media searches, from 38% to 78%.


American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and New Guidelines to Help Guide Kids’ Media Use

Studies show that 53% of children now have a smartphone by age 11. Pediatricians and providers often need quick, simple ways to discuss digital media with families. To help, we developed The 5 Cs of Media Use. Based on current research and evidence, the handouts start by informing parents about their children’s developmental stages, how this influences media use, and healthy media habits to strive for at home. 


Measurement tools to track social connection and support Loneliness Awareness Week

The Foundation for Social Connection has a Measurement Tools Inventory of over 50 measures that measure social isolation, loneliness, belonging or connection. They also have a catalog of interventions and solutions that foster social connection. Learn more here:


Cultivating Connections: The Current State of Social Capital in College and Career Pathways

Relationships matter. Growing a student’s network can expand their access to information, tap them into systems of influence, strengthen their own identity and sense of self. The process by which we embed these practices within our educational system is known as social capital development. This landscape scan provides deeper insight into how national, state, and local-level education organizations are defining, and the extent to which they are incorporating, social capital development into their day-to-day work with students. 


A third of Gen Z report poor mental health, more than all other age categories

Spiritual health encompasses having meaning in one’s life, a sense of connection to something larger than oneself, and a sense of purpose. Finding this meaning is associated with strong mental, social, and physical health. McKinsey’s Mental Health Institute explores poor mental health and spiritual health in worldwide study of Gen Z.


Adult LGBTQ+ Role Models in the Lives of LGBTQ+ Young People

The Trevor Project released a new research brief on LGBTQ+ role models for youth, which found two-thirds of LGBTQ+ young people (67%) reported having at least one older LGBTQ+ adult role model in their lives. Having access to an older LGBTQ+ adult role model is associated with higher levels of self-reported life purpose among LGBTQ+ young people.


MHA releases youth mental health data brief with the Data Equity Coalition

MHA released an issue brief as part of a series by the Data Equity Coalition calling for standardized data collection methods around race, ethnicity, language (REL), sexual orientation, gender identity (SOGI), and disability status. MHA's brief focuses on recommendations for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to standardize federal data collection methods to improve mental health outcomes for youth in underserved communities.

The Data Equity Coalition argues that more must be done to accurately capture the needs of today’s youth. The first generation of majority non-white children has been born and adolescents report the highest levels on record of LGBTQ+ identification. Their mental health needs cannot be met without precise data to identify where there are disparities and how to address them. This begs OMB to require standardized data be collected for REL, SOGI, and disability status to support cross-agency and cross-systems efforts to analyze issues and create innovative solutions that promote better mental health outcomes for youth who experience inequity.


History of the National Survey of Early Care and Education: A Research Brief Series

This research brief series seeks to provide documentation of the historical contexts in which the different waves of the National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE) were developed and fielded, as well as share important research and methodological advances made possible by the NSECE. 


Poverty Matters for Children’s Well-being

In a new research brief, Child Trends authors explore how poverty negatively influences nearly every aspect of children’s development—beginning in pregnancy, continuing into childhood and adolescence, and extending through adulthood. The authors conclude with a brief discussion of how policies and programs—such as cash transfers and refundable tax credits; child care and early education investments; and access to food, nutrition, and housing assistance programs—can reduce or mitigate the negative effects of child poverty and improve families’ well-being. 



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