Significant Rise In The Numbers Of Youths Hospitalized With ‘Mental Illness’ Labels

There has been a ‘Striking’ Increase in Youth Psychiatric Hospitalizations reports MedScape Today. While a doctor quoted in this article finds this rise surprising, I don’t find it surprising at all, and I think such a development could have easily been predicted.

During roughly the last 10 years, acute care psychiatric hospitalization rates and total number of inpatient days increased substantially in children and adolescents, increased modestly in adults, and decreased sharply in elderly individuals, new research shows.

When drug companies must sell diagnoses to sell drugs, when violence and homelessness are being increasingly blamed on the undiagnosed “mentally ill”, when mental health professionals and patient groups are taking pains to make “mental illness” seem cool and attractive, young people are just beginning their long trek into what could become a potentially troubled adulthood.

Dr. Joseph C. Blader looked at the data from the National Hospital Discharge Surveys from 1996-2007 and found the following results:

For children [aged 5-13], psychiatric discharges increased from about 155 per 100,000 in 1996 to 283 per 100,000 in 2007 (P = .003); for adolescents [aged 14-19], from 683 to 969 per 100,000 (P = .001); and for adults [aged 20-64], from 921 to 995 per 100,000 (P = .003). In contrast, among elderly individuals [aged 65 up], psychiatric discharges decreased from 977 to 807 per 100,000 (P < .001).

The number of days children and adolescent spent in the hospital also increased while the number of these days covered by private payers decreased.

This article ends with a couple of pointed questions that desparately need to be asked and answered.

For example, has this upturn led to better outcomes? Does it suggest that other forms of care are crumbling and is that associated with worse outcomes? These questions are vitally important to answer, Dr. [Robert] Findling said.

When this decrease in discharges among the elderly could possibly be explained by the high mortality rates of people in psychiatric care, the desired and positive answer might not be the one we would arrive at. Studies have shown people in mental health treatment dying on average at an age as much as 25 years younger than the general population.

Perhaps we need to look more closely at our present treatment techniques and practices. Perhaps such a look could yield to more effective and less harmful treatment practices than we have at the moment. Perhaps it could also result in recruiting fewer and fewer children and adolescents into the ranks of the labeled “mentally ill”.