Distress, Waitlists and Unmet Needs: Parents’ Reports of Child Psychological Difficulties in Aotearoa New Zealand

Kercher, Amy
Beattie, Seona
Donkin, Liesje
Shepherd, Daniel
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Journal Article
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Elsevier BV

OBJECTIVE: Demand for children's mental health services has increased in New Zealand, yet little is known of young children's experience of psychological difficulties and treatment. This study investigated psychological symptoms and treatment experiences among primary-aged children.

METHOD: An online survey of parents assessed children's anxiety, depression, attentional, emotional, conduct and peer problems, and experiences seeking psychological treatment.

RESULTS: Based on 382 parental reports, between 24.9 and 34.6% of children experienced abnormal-range symptoms. Older children had higher distress, depression, and anxiety. Boys had more conduct, hyperactivity, and peer problems. Ethnicity was not associated with the incidence of symptoms, but parents of Pākeha/European children reported greater impact than Māori parents. One-third of children had been referred for assessment; more often older children, and those with higher hyperactivity, impact, and anxiety. Parents reported difficulties accessing assessment, common barriers included waitlists (53%), cost (43%), and not knowing who to contact (36%). Following intervention, only 51% of parents reported improvements.

CONCLUSION: NZ primary-aged children are experiencing more symptoms of psychological distress than previously reported and extensive difficulties accessing treatment. IMPLICATIONS FOR PUBLIC HEALTH: There is a need for further screening and increased access to treatment to prevent worsening mental health outcomes in children.

ADHD , NZ , anxiety , barriers , child , depression , treatment , 4203 Health Services and Systems , 42 Health Sciences , Health Services , Mental Health , Pediatric , Depression , Behavioral and Social Science , Mind and Body , Clinical Research , 6 Evaluation of treatments and therapeutic interventions , 6.6 Psychological and behavioural , 7.1 Individual care needs , 7 Management of diseases and conditions , Mental health , 3 Good Health and Well Being , 1117 Public Health and Health Services , 1402 Applied Economics , 1605 Policy and Administration , Public Health , 4202 Epidemiology , 4203 Health services and systems , 4206 Public health
Aust N Z J Public Health, ISSN: 1326-0200 (Print); 1753-6405 (Online), Elsevier BV, 48(1), 100120-. doi: 10.1016/j.anzjph.2023.100120
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© 2024 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. on behalf of Public Health Association of Australia. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http:// creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/)