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Experts Design 'Toolkit' to Help Spot Teens With Mental Health Issues
Date:10/31/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Oct. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Because many adolescents with mental health problems are never diagnosed and treated, an expert team has come up with a "toolkit" aimed at identifying those kids and getting them the right help.

"One in 10 youths have a mental health condition that is severe enough to impair functioning, either at home, school or in the community," said Gary Blau, chief of the child, adolescent and family branch of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Blau spoke at a Friday news conference to unveil the toolkit, which appeared online simultaneously in Pediatrics. Although the journal is published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, that organization has not endorsed the toolkit. SAMHSA provided partial funding for the project.

"This toolkit will allow pediatricians, teachers and others that could help get the word out to families we can close the gap so the three out of four children with mental health disorders who aren't identified do get identified," said Dr. Peter Jensen, who was the lead investigator on the project.

About half of mental health disorders manifest themselves by the time a child has turned 14, and 75 percent manifest by age 24, Blau said.

Yet treatment is often years away for that child, added Lisa Hunter Romanelli, an assistant professor of clinical psychology in psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons in New York City.

"That is too long in the life of a child," said Romanelli, who is also executive director of the nonprofit REACH Institute, whose mission is to shorten the length of time it takes for effective interventions to reach teens. Jensen is president and CEO of the institute.

Researchers convened over a period of several years to analyze data collected from more than 6,000
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