Community-Based Prevalence of Externalizing and Internalizing Disorders among School-Aged Children and Adolescents in Four Geographically Dispersed School Districts in the United States

Melissa L Danielson, Rebecca H Bitsko, Joseph R Holbrook, Sana N Charania, Angelika H Claussen, Robert E McKeown, Steven P Cuffe, Julie Sarno Owens, Steven W Evans, Lorraine Kubicek, Kate Flory
Child Psychiatry and Human Development 2020 July 30
The Project to Learn About Youth-Mental Health (PLAY-MH; 2014-2018) is a school-based, two-stage study designed to estimate the prevalence of selected mental disorders among K-12 students in four U.S.-based sites (Colorado, Florida, Ohio, and South Carolina). In Stage 1, teachers completed validated screeners to determine student risk status for externalizing or internalizing problems or tics; the percentage of students identified as being at high risk ranged from 17.8% to 34.4%. In Stage 2, parents completed a structured diagnostic interview to determine whether their child met criteria for fourteen externalizing or internalizing disorders; weighted prevalence estimates of meeting criteria for any disorder were similar in three sites (14.8%-17.8%) and higher in Ohio (33.3%). PLAY-MH produced point-in-time estimates of mental disorders in K-12 students, which may be used to supplement estimates from other modes of mental disorder surveillance and inform mental health screening and healthcare and educational services.

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