Project to Learn About Youth – Mental Health (PLAY-MH) – Ohio University

Julie Owens, PhD, Principal Investigator, Ohio University. (Funded 2014-2016) Children and adolsecents with mental health problems, including internalizing, externalizing, and tic disorders exhibit high rates of health risk behaviors that create significant impairment in daily functioning. These problems are costly for the education, healthcare, and justice systems, particularly given that many struggling youth go unidentified and untreated. To adequately meet the needs of these youth, and prevent negative outcomes associated with serious mental illness, we must maintain accurate data about disorder prevalence and factors that facilitate or interfere with appropriate service utilization. Using population-based research methods, the study aims are to (1) describe the prevalence and co-occurrence of mental health disorders and associated health risk behaviors among youth in grades K-12; (2) describe the rates of current and previous mental health treatment among youth diagnosed with a mental health disorder, as well as barriers to treatment access; and (3) explore diversion and misuse of psychoactive medications. We will use a two-phase study design. In Phase 1, we will screen, using teacher ratings, the entire student body in the Lancaster City School District (N=5,782). This school district was selected because Lancaster provides a unique mix of urban and rural influences and includes families with Appalachian and Amish backgrounds, sample characteristics that will help to broaden characteristics of the PLAY-MH samples recruited in South Carolina and Colorado. In Phase 2, we will conduct diagnostic interviews with parents and youth (ages 9 and older), and obtain data on family demographic characteristics, receipt of mental health services, health risk behaviors, and barriers to treatment seeking and utilization. Phase 2 will be conducted with those who received a positive screen; and a randomly-selected sample from the group with negatives screens using a frequency-matched approach, matching for age, sex, socio-economic status, and race. Analyses will be conducted using SAS 9.3 and will include weights to adjust for the sampling design. We will disseminate study results to the Lancaster City School District, the Ohio Departments of Education and Mental Health, and the national and international scientific community via conferences and top-tier peer-reviewed journals.