People who develop psychiatric issues often first exhibit symptoms during adolescence. The number of inpatient mental health care venues for teens has increased dramatically in the past several decades. And although inpatient care is an intensive approach, the length of stay for teens has decreased. This could be attributed to the increased access to outpatient mental health services. But Corine Carlisle, a Clinician Scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto in Canada wanted to find out just what percentage of teens actually received follow-up care after inpatient treatment. To determine this, Carlisle interviewed 711 Canadian teens between the ages of 15 and 19 years old who had been released from a mental health facility and asked them if they received aftercare from a primary doctor or specialist in the weeks or days following their discharge.
Carlisle found that although nearly one in four teens did see a primary doctor or mental health professional in the week immediately following discharge, less than half of the teens saw anyone in the month after they left inpatient treatment. Those with higher economic statuses and with mood disorders were much more likely to receive care than those from lower socioeconomic classes. Also, the teens with a history of substance misuse, suicide attempts, or self-injurious behaviors were the least likely to receive follow-up care. And for teens in rural areas, the rates of aftercare were even lower.
The finding of low follow-up among those with substance misuse, self-injurious behaviors, and suicidal ideations could indicate a lower level of engagement, which should be the focus of inpatient care. Carlisle is especially concerned by the results of her study because lack of aftercare could increase a teen’s chance of further symptoms development and future inpatient stays. “Our findings point to significant challenges in the availability, accessibility, and geographic equity of mental health services for youth,” said Carlisle. The cost of mental health care is escalating, and individuals who do not have access to, or who choose not to participate in aftercare could potentially incur significant psychological and financial costs later on.
Carlisle, Corine, Muhammad Mamdani, Russell Schachar, and Teresa To. Predictors of psychiatric aftercare among formerly hospitalized adolescents. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 57.11 (2012): 666-76. Print.
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