Geographical Impacts

1 in 5 teens struggle with mental health. That equates to 20% of teens who are currently experiencing the effects of mental illness. Only 4% of the total healthcare budget is spent on mental health in teens and a 2013 Duke study estimates that more than half of adolescents diagnosed with mental illness go without treatment. This discrepancy may be directly related to the geographical location of teens who are experiencing psychological disorders. Stigmas surrounding mental illness are often embedded so deeply within a community that those suffering from illness prefer to stay silent rather than face their parents, teachers, or community leaders. Treatments for youth experiencing mental illness are few and far between, severely underfunded, and fracturing under extreme duress. A study from Michigan Medicine in 2019 reveals “The prevalence of mental health conditions among youth and the gap in treatment varied widely by state. Washington, D.C., for example, had the lowest prevalence of children left untreated (nearly 30 percent) while North Carolina had the highest percentage, with more than two thirds of children not receiving needed treatment or counseling (72 percent.) Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah were also in the top quartile for the prevalence of children with a mental health disorder who did not receive needed treatment.”

The youth in these states are put at a disadvantage due to the expectations of others. To make matters worse, even when teens are able to get the treatment they need, they often fall victim to a fractured psychiatric system. Hospitals are not equipped to care for teens experiencing episodes of mania, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. These high-risk patients, especially in places like North Carolina, can be put on a waiting list for psychiatric wards for more than 72 hours. This is called “boarding” and can be deadly for high-risk patients. These kids are told that there's nothing that can be done until a bed opens at a nearby psychiatric hospital. The mentally ill teens are not monitored because hospitals in these states opt to place their energy into more lucrative endeavors, as adolescent psychiatric care is often not reimbursed by insurance companies. The fact is that accessibility needs to be increased to see any kind of improvement in the mental health sector.

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