IOM Report on Youth Mental Health Highlights Prevention

Article excerpt

Community-based partnerships between physicians and educators are needed to screen young people for mental, emotional, and behavioral problems, according to a new report from the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine.

The report's authors also called on the National Institutes of Health to direct efforts "to study the feasibility and ethics of using individually identified genetic and other neurobiological risk factors to target preventive interventions for [mental, emotional, and behavioral] disorders" in that population.

Those are just two of the recommendations contained in the 556-page report, "Preventing Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders Among Young People: Progress and Possibilities." The report asks mental health research and service-provision agencies, primary care medical systems, schools, community-based organizations, and the child welfare and criminal justice systems to make the prevention of mental health disorders among young people a high priority.

"By all realistic measures, no such priority exists today," noted the report's authors, who are committee members from the NRC and IOM's Committee on the Prevention of Mental Disorders and Substance Abuse Among Children, Youth, and Families.

Dr. Carl C. Bell, who is on the committee and contributed to the report, reiterated that sentiment. "The Chinese have a saying: 'You are foolish to wait until you are thirsty before you start digging a well.' But that is exactly what we do in the U.S.," he said in an interview.

Furthermore, although federal action is needed, he said, physicians must take responsibility for making prevention a priority, too. "Organizations of health professionals could demand that their training includes prevention technology. Individually, health care professionals could shift their paradigm and start learning prevention technologies and applying them in real life." He added that these recommendations were included in the report.

Dr. Thomas H. McGlashan, professor and director of Yale's Psychiatric Institute, New Haven, Conn. …