(Good Medical Health) – About six American children suffer from at least one mental health disorder and about half of them only receive treatment from a mental health professional, according to a new study .

According to the study, about 7.7 million children aged 6 to 17 years old have at least one mental health disorder, or about 16.5% of school-aged children. The prevalence of mental health problems among children ranged from 7.6% in Hawaii to 27.2% in Maine.

Half of children with depression, anxiety and an attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder receive no care from mental health professionals. But this varied by location, ranging from 29.5% in Washington, DC to 72.2% in North Carolina.

"Mental disorders are certainly stigmatized diseases and can be very bothersome for healthy growth, especially for children and adolescents," said study co-author Daniel Whitney of the University from Michigan to Ann Arbor.

"What was worrisome was that almost half of American children with a mental health disorder had not been treated or counseled by a mental health professional," Whitney said by e-mail. . "Gaps in the treatment of clinical conditions could worsen these disparities and other health disparities, thus providing a mechanism to prevent healthy growth in adulthood that might otherwise be avoided."

Researchers assessed the prevalence of diagnoses and treatment of mental health problems in children based on data from the 2016 National Child Health Survey, a representative survey of parents of American children at the parental level under 18 years old.

Parents responded to a prompt: "Has a doctor or other health care provider ever told you that this child has" a mental health disorder. "If so, does this child CURRENTly have this condition?"

Then, the survey also asked parents who reported a mental health problem: "In the past 12 months, did this child receive any treatment or advice from a health professional?" mental health (including) psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses and clinical social workers? "

Some states have high proportions of children with mental disorders and untreated children: Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah.

The study also found that poor children and those whose mothers were single were about 40% more likely to have a mental health problem than children from better-off households or having two parents at home.

The study was not a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how specific factors could directly affect the number of children diagnosed or treated for mental health disorders.

Many things can play a role in varying rates of diagnosis and treatment, Whitney said. These include differences between states in the affordability and affordability of mental health care for children, as well as distinct levels of stigma at the local and regional levels around these conditions.

The individual characteristics of patients and family probably also play a role, Whitney added.

The current study probably underestimates the extent of the problem, said Katherine Lamparyk, pediatric psychologist at Cleveland Clinic Hospital in Ohio Hospital, who was not involved in the study.

"These estimates do not include children who have never been seen by health care professionals or who have never been diagnosed," said Lamparyk.

"At present 15-minute primary care appointments, it is likely that many of these diagnoses will be ignored during a normal visit to a child well," Lamparyk said via email.

It is very unlikely that children who have been diagnosed with mental disorders are not being treated because they no longer need them, said Lamparyk.

Rather, it is likely that there are too few beneficiaries where they live, that their families can not pay for care, or that families do not think the treatment is helpful or make decisions informed by the stigma associated with mental illness, said Lamparyk.

"Mental health diagnosis is only part of a larger picture of our overall health and well-being and is related to most, if not all, other aspects of health and well-being. in general, "said Lamparyk. "Unfortunately, this is not always recognized or (understood) this way by individuals or insurance companies."

SOURCE: bit.ly/2I6SmDs JAMA Pediatrics, online February 11, 2019.