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While there are systems of care in place to treat mental health disorders in pediatric and adult patients, there is a lack of care for transition age youth (TAY), a group comprised of young adults ranging in ages 15–26.
Elizabeth Miller, MD, PhD, Tina R. Goldstein, PhD, and Susheel K. Khetarpal, all of Pitt, along with Lauren S. Auster, MD, from the University of California San Francisco, published a commentary in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health that addresses the need for more inclusive and equitable mental health telemedicine offerings for TAY.
TAY is a very vulnerable population, as this group experiences multiple developmental transitions throughout young adulthood such as identity formation, career development, gaining independence, and exploring intimate relationships.
It is believed that these major life events can expose TAY to stressors that may contribute to the development of mental health disorders.
Many TAY individuals avoid treatment for mental health disorders due to pediatric services ending between ages 18–21, an unfamiliarity of adult mental health providers and resources, and a greater perceived responsibility for medical decisions.
Other structural inequities such as race, gender, and access to adequate insurance coverage may prevent TAY individuals from seeking care.
It is believed that telemedicine should be used to reduce this gap in care for the TAY population, as the COVID-19 pandemic proved that telemedicine could serve as a beneficial resource for those who are confronted with geographic, social, or other structural barriers.
Telemedicine is viewed as an especially beneficial tool for the TAY population given their familiarity in using technology to communicate.
While there are disadvantages to telemedicine such as limited patient privacy and confidentiality, a lack of interpersonal relationships between providers and patients, and a lack of appropriate technology among patients, solutions such as individualizing sessions when possible, providing technical support or hybrid care formats, and integrating interpretation services into the telemedicine platform can be applied to TAY offerings.
Ultimately, the authors of this commentary urge mental health providers to expand virtual mental health programming for TAY so that this group can receive the proper care and resources needed to successfully navigate the transition to adulthood.
Khetarpal SK, Auster LS, Miller E, Goldstein TR. Transition age youth mental health: addressing the gap with telemedicine. Child Adolesc Psychiatry Ment Health. 2022 Feb 2;16(1):8. doi: 10.1186/s13034-022-00444-3. PMID: 35109881; PMCID: PMC8809232.