Women and young people have faced increased behavioral health problems since before the pandemic, according to a new report, which assesses the well-being of women and children.
The United Health Foundation study looked at more than 100 measures, from physical health to the determinants of emotional, social and behavioral health.
Dr Ravi Johar, chief medical officer at UnitedHealthcare, said mental distress in women, adolescents and children was on the rise. “Just over 18% of women in the United States said that in the past 30 days, 14 of them were not feeling well mentally,” Johar reported. “So for more than half of the month, one in five women didn’t feel well. ” Nationally, teen suicide has jumped 26% since 2014. The report found that more than 7,000 children between the ages of 15 and 19 ended their own life in the two years before the onset of the pandemic.
Dr. Laine Young-Walker, a child psychiatrist and chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Missouri, said it is important to tackle long-standing shortage mental health professionals, especially psychiatrists. “We know that there are not enough child psychiatrists to meet the need and that many families will go to their PCP (primary care physician) first,” Young-Walker explained. “Maybe they won’t seek mental health because of the stigma. So if we can support primary care providers, I think that’s another tool.
Young-Walker added that there are also disparities in access to mental health support. She noted that white youth with depression are more likely to be treated than black or Latino youth. She stressed that it is necessary to identify the obstacles to obtaining this care. “Because there is a shortage to begin with, there is definitely a dearth of black and brown people who may be able to help and support patients who are like them,” Young-Walker said. “One of the things that keeps patients and their families from seeking help is that they don’t see anyone who looks like them.
Access to health insurance can also be an obstacle to care. The report noted that Missouri ranks 38th for uninsured children and found that nearly 15% of women in the state are uninsured.
(Photo courtesy of the Missouri News Service)
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