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STUDY: The impact of behavioral health conditions and treatment on older adolescents, young adults

May 9, 2014
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor
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Recently released data shows that older adolescents and young adults with emotional and behavioral health conditions are much more likely to have significant problems with school performance, employment, and housing stability, according to a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

According to the findings, nearly 8 percent of older adolescents (ages 16 to 17) with co-occurring depression and a substance use disorder do not have a stable place to live, and have moved three or more times in the past year. Among older adolescents with depression and substance use disorder enrolled in school, 13.5 percent have academic difficulties, with a grade average of "D" or lower. These challenges make it difficult for older adolescents with mental and substance use disorders to successfully transition into adulthood.

Young adults (ages 18 to 25) with co-occurring serious mental illness and substance use disorders are less likely than those without co-occurring disorders to be high school graduates. However, young adults with serious mental illness who received treatment were more likely to graduate high school than their peers who did not receive treatment.

Having a high school diploma makes a tremendous difference in a young adult’s ability to get a job and earn a living wage. According to the report, young adults with co-occurring serious mental illness and substance use disorders are 1.4 times more likely to be unemployed than their peers without these disorders. When these young adults are able to gain employment, they still have difficulty maintaining a job. The data shows young adults with serious mental illness are 1.7 times more likely than their peers without mental illness to have had more than three employers within the past year.

"This new report demonstrates the critical need for treatment and other services that focus on older adolescents and young adults with mental and substance use disorders," said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. "A new SAMHSA grant program called ‘Healthy Transitions’ – part of President Obama’s Now Is the Time initiative – will provide $79.2 million over five years to 16 states, tribes, and territories to improve access to treatment and support services for youth transitioning into adulthood who experience serious mental and/or co-occurring substance use disorders."

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