Poll: Over half of parents say pediatricians don't bring up child mental health concerns

December 18, 2008

According to recent poll results, 56% of parents claimed their child's primary care physician does not ask them about child mental health concerns.

According to recent poll results, 56% of parents claimed their child's primary care physician does not ask them about child mental health concerns.

The latest University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, which polled parents of children ages 5 to 17 about concerns for their children who were diagnosed with a mental health condition, also found that 22% of parents said their child's primary care physician asks about child mental health concerns "sometimes." Another 22% claimed the issue was brought up regularly.

In addition, among parents who have discussed mental health concerns with their children's primary care doctor, 62% have gone on to use specialty mental health services for their children. However, 7% of all parents surveyed said that they were unable to get the specialty mental health services they wanted (25% of parents with children with a mental health diagnosis gave this response, compared to 3% of parents with no such diagnosis for their children).

Among the reasons parents gave when unable to access specialty mental health services for their children:

  • 46% said it was difficult to find a provider


  • 43% said it was too expensive


  • 35% said they could not get a timely appointment


  • 33% said they didn't know where to get such services

Additionally, the poll found that one out of five parents claimed one or more of their children has been diagnosed with a mental health condition. The three most common diagnoses were attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, behavioral problems, and depression. Other diagnoses included autism, alcohol and drug use, bipolar disorder, and eating disorders. The C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health stated that one in ten children and adolescents in the US have a serious emotional disturbance, according to national estimates.