Access to Mental Health Care

Less than half of adolescents with psychiatric disorders received any kind of treatment in the past year.[1] A social stigma continues to surround mental health disorders, and mental health care is frequently difficult to access. In 2013, 10 percent of adolescents lacked insurance and,[2] when they are covered, the amount of mental health services they can receive is often limited. [3] Initially identifying a mental health disorder is also challenging—issues are often first identified at school. Researchers have documented a number of disparities in access. Among adolescents, those that are homeless; served by state child welfare and juvenile justice systems; and are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender are often the least likely to receive services. [4]-[6]

Check out these resources for adolescent mental health services:
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides the Mental Health Services Locator, an online, map-based program visitors can use to find facilities in their vicinity. Local organizations may be particularly helpful for addressing the mental health needs of adolescents in a specific community.
  • Adolescents (or anyone) in suicidal crisis or emotional distress can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.  Calls made to this 24-hour hotline are routed to the caller’s nearest crisis center. 
  • YouMatter is a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline site for young adults, complete with a blog where visitors can share problems and receive support.

Learn more about adolescent access to mental health services:

Footnotes »

Costello, E. J., He, J. P., Sampson, N. A., Kessler, R. C., & Merikangas, K. R. (2013). Services for adolescents with psychiatric disorders: 12-month data from the National Comorbidity Survey–Adolescent.Psychiatric Services, 65(3), 459.
Child Trends. (2014). Child Trends analysis of 2013 National Health Interview Survey data. Bethesda, MD.
Schwarz, S. W. (2009). Adolescent mental health in the United States: Facts for Policymakers. Retrieved February 16, 2016, from
Mustanski, B. S., Garofalo, R., & Emerson, E. M. (2010). Mental health disorders, psychological distress, and suicidality in a diverse sample of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth.American Journal of Public Health, 100(12), 2426-2432.
Morrow, S., & Howell, E. (2010). State mental health systems for children. Washington, DC: Urban Institute.
United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. (2010). Opening doors: Federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness, executive summary. Retrieved February 16, 2016, from
Last updated: October 28, 2016