June 26, 2008

Mentally Ill Teens Have Hard Transition

The transition from adolescence to adulthood is rarely easy, but is much harder for those with mental illness, a U.S. non-profit official says.

Transitions are made even more difficult by the separation and differences that exist between the nation's child and adolescent and adult mental healthcare systems, Michael J. Fitzpatrick, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said in a statement. There must be a better path to adulthood.

A U.S. Government Accountability Office report estimates at least 2.4 million young adults ages 18 to 26 -- or 6.5 percent of the non-institutionalized young adults in that age range -- had a serious mental illness in 2006. However, the actual number is likely to be higher because homeless, institutionalized and incarcerated persons -- groups with potentially high rates of mental illness -- were not included in the estimate.

The report said young adults with serious mental illness can have difficulty finding services that aid their transition to adulthood.

Mentally ill young adults can find it difficult to qualify for adult programs that provide or pay for mental health services, disrupting the continuity of their treatment, Fitzpatrick says.