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Chartbook on Mental Health and Disability

Section 4: Access, utilization, and cost of services

4.2. How many children and youth use mental health services?

More than 1.3 million children under the age of 18 years—about one in 50 children—received mental health services in the U.S. in 1997. This is almost double the number of children who received those services in 1986. These estimates, based on the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) Client Patient Sample Survey, include only children seen in community mental health settings. The estimates are conservative as they do not include youth who consulted exclusively with individual therapists and paid for the treatment with private insurance or personal funds.

Of the children and youth receiving mental health services, 50.7% were adolescents aged 13-17 years, 40.3% were elementary school-aged children aged 6-12 years and 9.1% were pre-schoolers, aged 0-5 years. More boys (56.0%) than girls (44.0%) received mental health services.

More than 1.3 million children and youth receive mental health services, and the rate has nearly doubled in a decade.

Figure 22 (see data table for text-only version)

Figure 22: Number of youth admitted for mental health services in the U.S., 1986 and 1997 estimates

Source: Pottick (2002); Pottick, Warner, Manderscheid, & Elhosseiny (2003)

Surveys: National Institute of Mental Health data, 1986; Center for Mental Health Services, Client Patient Sample Survey, 1997

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