Mental Health Risk Factors, Unmet Needs, and Provider Availability for Rural Children


The study used the 2001 National Health Interview Survey to assess the prevalence of sub-clinical mental health problems among children, the degree to which children with potential problems use mental health and general providers for these problems, and the degree of unmet need. Key findings include: 1) Nearly 1 of every 4 rural children has a potential mental health problem as derived from the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ).; 2) Age, sex, family income, parental education, living situation, health insurance status, and previously diagnosed developmental disorder were all associated with sub-clinical mental health problems in children.; 3) Less than 1 out of 5 parents of rural or urban children with sub-clinical mental health problems had seen or talked to a mental health professional about the child in the past 12 months.; and 4) Characteristics associated with mental healthcare utilization were race/ethnicity, insurance status, level of education in the child's family, living situation, and previous diagnosis of a developmental disorder. Among roughly 2.9 million rural children with a potential mental health problem as defined by the SDQ score, two thirds (68.1%) are living in a HPSA-mental health designated area. This translates to over 1.9 million children with mental health problems but living in areas where very minimal to no resources are available for their care.

Rural and Minority Health Research Center
Charity Moore, Michael Mink, Janice Probst, Mark Tompkins, Andy Johnson, Shereca Hughley