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Perceived need and barriers to adolescent mental health care: agreement between adolescents and their parents

  • N. Schnyder (a1) (a2), D. Lawrence (a3), R. Panczak (a4), M. G. Sawyer (a5) (a6), H. A. Whiteford (a1) (a2) (a7), P. M. Burgess (a1) (a2) and M. G. Harris (a1) (a2)...

Abstract

Aims

Mental disorders cause high burden in adolescents, but adolescents often underutilise potentially beneficial treatments. Perceived need for and barriers to care may influence whether adolescents utilise services and which treatments they receive. Adolescents and parents are stakeholders in adolescent mental health care, but their perceptions regarding need for and barriers to care might differ. Understanding patterns of adolescent-parent agreement might help identify gaps in adolescent mental health care.

Methods

A nationally representative sample of Australian adolescents aged 13–17 and their parents (N = 2310), recruited between 2013–2014, were asked about perceived need for four types of adolescent mental health care (counselling, medication, information and skill training) and barriers to care. Perceived need was categorised as fully met, partially met, unmet, or no need. Cohen's kappa was used to assess adolescent-parent agreement. Multinomial logistic regressions were used to model variables associated with patterns of agreement.

Results

Almost half (46.5% (s.e. = 1.21)) of either adolescents or parents reported a perceived need for any type of care. For both groups, perceived need was greatest for counselling and lowest for medication. Identified needs were fully met for a third of adolescents. Adolescent-parent agreement on perceived need was fair (kappa = 0.25 (s.e. = 0.01)), but poor regarding the extent to which needs were met (kappa = −0.10 (s.e. = 0.02)). The lack of parental knowledge about adolescents' feelings was positively associated with adolescent-parent agreement that needs were partially met or unmet and disagreement about perceived need, compared to agreement that needs were fully met (relative risk ratio (RRR) = 1.91 (95% CI = 1.19–3.04) to RRR = 4.69 (95% CI = 2.38–9.28)). Having a probable disorder was positively associated with adolescent-parent agreement that needs were partially met or unmet (RRR = 2.86 (95% CI = 1.46–5.61)), and negatively with adolescent-parent disagreement on perceived need (RRR = 0.50 (95% CI = 0.30–0.82)). Adolescents reported most frequently attitudinal barriers to care (e.g. self-reliance: 55.1% (s.e. = 2.39)); parents most frequently reported that their child refused help (38.7% (s.e. = 2.69)). Adolescent-parent agreement was poor for attitudinal (kappa = −0.03 (s.e. = 0.06)) and slight for structural barriers (kappa = 0.02 (s.e. = 0.09)).

Conclusions

There are gaps in the extent to which adolescent mental health care is meeting the needs of adolescents and their parents. It seems important to align adolescents' and parents' needs at the beginning and throughout treatment and to improve communication between adolescents and their parents. Both might provide opportunities to increase the likelihood that needs will be fully met. Campaigns directed towards adolescents and parents need to address different barriers to care. For adolescents, attitudinal barriers such as stigma and mental health literacy require attention.

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Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

Author for correspondence: Nina Schnyder, E-mail: n.schnyder@uq.edu.au

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Perceived need and barriers to adolescent mental health care: agreement between adolescents and their parents

  • N. Schnyder (a1) (a2), D. Lawrence (a3), R. Panczak (a4), M. G. Sawyer (a5) (a6), H. A. Whiteford (a1) (a2) (a7), P. M. Burgess (a1) (a2) and M. G. Harris (a1) (a2)...

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