Service use by Australian children for emotional and behavioural problems: Findings from the second Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing.


Objective: To identify the proportion of children and adolescents in Australia and the proportion of those with mental disorders who used services for emotional and behavioural problems, the type of services used and what characteristics were associated with service use. Method: During 2013-2014, a national face-to-face household survey of mental health and wellbeing (Young Minds Matter) was conducted, involving 6310 parents and carers of 4- to 17-year-olds (55% of eligible households) and self-report surveys from 2967 11- to 17-year-olds in these households (89% of eligible youth). The survey identified 12-month mental disorders based on the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children-Version IV and asked about service use for emotional or behavioural problems in the previous 12 months. Results: Overall, 17.0% of all 4- to 17-year-olds used services for emotional or behavioural problems in the previous 12 months. Of those with mental disorders, 56.0% used services (48.9% of 4- to 11-year-olds; 65.1% of 12- to 17-year-olds). Service use was highest among 4- to 17-year-olds with major depressive disorder (79.6%) and lowest for those with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (52.7%). Two-fifths (41.2%), 72.5% and 87.6% of those with mild, moderate and severe disorders used services. General practitioners, psychologists, paediatricians and counsellors/family therapists were the most commonly accessed health service providers. Two-fifths with mental disorders had attended school services. About 5% of adolescents reported use of online personal support or counselling for help with their problems. From multivariate models, service use was higher in sole carer families, but also among those living in the least socially and economically disadvantaged compared to the most disadvantaged areas. Conclusion: Rates of service use for mental disorders in Australia’s children and adolescents appear to have increased substantially. Health services and schools are the major providers of services for emotional and behavioural problems, but telephone counselling and online services have become well-established parts of the service environment.