Young Adults Falling into Mental Health Care Gap

Article

The transition from adolescent to adult mental health care services results in many young people falling through a huge gap in provision

According to new research from the University of Warwick, UK, the transition from adolescent to adult mental health care services results in many young people falling through a huge gap in provision. Specifically, the team, led by professor Swaran Sing, Warwick Medical School, found that for the large majority of mental health service users, the transition was “poorly planned, poorly executed and poorly experienced.”

The research team—who published their study results in The British Journal of Psychiatrylooked at 154 mental health care service users who were making the move from childe to adult services and followed them for one year to observe their experiences. Just 58% of participants made the transition to adult services, with those who had a history of severe mental illness, were on medication, or had been admitted to the hospital more likely to make the transition than participants with neurodevelopment disorders, emotional or neurotic disorders, and emerging personality disorder. Further, one-fifth of referrals from child to adult mental healthcare services were discharged without being seen.

“Despite adolescence being a risk period for the emergence of serious mental disorders, substance misuse, other risk-taking behaviors and poor engagement with health services, mental health provision is often patchy during this period,” said Singh. “By following a pediatric-adult split, mental health services introduce discontinuities in care provision where the system should be most robust. Often for the vast majority the transition from child to adult mental health services is poorly planned, poorly executed and poorly experienced.”

The transfer of information from child to adult mental health services was affected by both parties not fully understanding one another’s services, inconsistent documentation, incompatible systems used for electronic records, and referrals that resulted in patients being placed on long waiting lists during with conversation between child and adult mental health providers was reduced.

“Where possible, case notes should follow the young person, and detailed referral letters, including risk assessments, should be sent to adult mental health services to facilitate planning,” concluded Singh. “We need to ensure that the vital need for improving youth mental health is not ignored for fear of dismantling long-standing and yet unhelpful service barriers.”

Have you seen young adults fall into the gap between child and adult mental health care services? If so, what have you done to rectify the situation? Can it be rectified? How can these situations be avoided? Do these findings apply to mental health care services provided in the US? Tell us what you think.

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