Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Pediatric Mental Health

Although more likely to face risk factors, minority youth are less frequently treated for mental health problems than White youth; cultural differences between minority youth and mental health service providers are a major cause.

This article reviews research into the infrequent treatment of mental health problems among minority children and adolescents. The authors recount several programs that have intervened in early childhood to promote mental health development. The article’s main topics are: the need for mental health services, access to treatment, differences in diagnostic strategies for minority youth, racial disparities in the dispensation of psychotherapy and psychopharmacologic treatment, outcomes, and approaches to addressing disparities. The authors provide numerous recommendations at the article’s conclusion.

Key Findings:

  • Whereas White children often receive treatment for mental health complications, minority children are more likely to enter the juvenile justice system.
  • Community-based programs incorporate principles of cultural competence to treat substance abuse in minority adolescents.

Minority children are more likely to experience poverty, persistent hunger, and violence—all risk factors for compromised mental health. This article is useful to researchers interested in the prevention and treatment of mental health problems among minority adolescents.